The microbiome: our gut feeling

The microbiome: billions of microorganisms living inside our gut. The microbiome is a very in fashion topic in Science these days. Scientists have been finding that the composition of bacteria in our guts imposes many consequences on our lives.

~ our gut is anything but boring ~

microbes

Figure source: protomag.com

gut microbiota

Our microbiome influences our behavior

There are many reports of mice behavior changing upon different gut composition. For example, in Rochellys et al PNAS 2011 article the authors report that mice with normal gut flora are curious but also cautious, as they usually mainly walk close to walls (not in the center of the square) so they’re not so exposed to dangers.

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But mice that have never had gut bacteria (germ-free mice) behave differently – they are more ‘brave’ and run more in the square center.

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When these germ-free mice receive a transplant of gut bacteria from normal mice (first group) they start behaving like normal mice and get cautious. Together with many other studies, this suggests that the bacteria in our gut has some influence on how we feel and therefore on how we behave.

Our microbiome influences our metabolism

In Ridaura et al Science 2013 study, scientists reported that the gut bacteria were a driving force in metabolism deregulation, which can lead to obesity. They took bacteria from feces from twins that had different body weight (same DNA but different metabolism) and transplanted the different bacteria into germ-free mice. When the microbiome came from a lean donor, the mice remain lean. But when the twin donor was obese the recipient mice became obese too.

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For me this is super exciting – different bacteria families in our gut change us. This study suggests that the gut bacteria have an important role in our metabolism. And if we get the ‘wrong’ bacteria in our gut this induces metabolic changes that can lead to obesity.

Microbiome equilibrium is extremely important and therefore it is critical that we study microbiome equilibrium so we can understand more about gut-brain communication. This could also be an important approach to treat metabolic and behavior deregulations.

Editor: Sarah Elkin

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