News / Health

Scientists Explore Gut Reaction to Disease

Scientists Explore Gut Microbes Reaction to Diseasei
X
March 06, 2013 10:28 PM
The human body contains roughly 10 trillion human cells . . . and harbors 100 trillion microbes - naturally-occurring bacteria that can be helpful, even essential to our health. Taken together, all these microscopic residents comprise what’s called the human microbiome. To expand our knowledge of this complex symbiosis, a new “citizen science” project has reached out for public funding . . . and microbial samples, too, from thousands of people, from all walks of life, from around the world. From Boulder Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports about the American Gut Project.

Scientists Explore Gut Microbes Reaction to Disease

TEXT SIZE - +
Shelley Schlender
— The human body harbors 100 trillion microbes, naturally occurring bacteria that can be helpful, even essential to our health. The microbes in our gut, or gastro-intestinal tract, help us digest our food and keep disease-causing bacteria at bay. 

University of Colorado scientist Rob Knight is trying to learn what nutrients promote the beneficial ones, and understand how they interact.

“What this research could ultimately lead to is a world where no infectious disease goes undiagnosed,” he says.

To achieve that goal, Knight needs lots of microbes, from lots of people. To collect them, he’s launched an online campaign called the American Gut project.

People around the world are invited to take part. They are sent a questionnaire about their diet, their health and their use of antibiotics, along with sterile cotton swabs to rub on their tongue, or their hands or their forehead. Subjects even run the swabs over their used toilet paper so Knight can obtain samples of their personal microbes. Then, they return the packet to Knight’s lab.

Lab director, Chris Lauber, who says that most studies of the human microbiome focus on lab animals or people with a specific illness, is confident the open-ended nature of the American Gut Project will reveal new information.

"Anybody can enroll, and we don’t care what their disease state is and whether they’re on antibiotics," Lauber says. "We just want to know about them. And what microbes are in their gut.”

A growing body of research indicates it’s easy to kill off these gut microbes, through malnutrition, overuse of antibiotics, junk food and pollution. For example, in countries with traditional diets and less antibiotic use, allergies, asthma and autoimmune disease are less common than they are in Western countries. 

Changes to gut microbes may even contribute to the worldwide epidemic of obesity and diabetes, which is why Second Genome CEO Peter DiLaura says his company is sponsoring sampling kits for 100 Type 2 diabetics.

“We’re really focused on working with Rob and the team at American Gut to understand in detail the microbial communities and the microbiome for this epidemic,” DiLaura says.

Second Genome hopes to develop pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals for diabetes treatment based on what is discovered about the microbes in our guts.

But Knight says the immediate goal is to continue gathering important data, and he encourages everyone to participate in the sampling:      

“You should participate if you have a fundamental interest in what microbes are living on and inside of your body," he says. "And also if you want to contribute to medical research that might someday provide useful information to you or to other people.”

Everyone who participates in the American Gut project will receive a summary of the microbes in their sample plus feedback about their foodlog and their health questionnaire. 

They can also donate scholarships to sample the microbes of people in developing nations, and volunteer to be part of future research.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid