Gut microbiome shapes change in human health and disease research

Oct 11, 2011

World class scientist Professor Willem M. de Vos will explain next Monday how the microbes that are closest to our hearts – gut microbes – could underpin a new way of thinking about human biology. As well as looking at our own genes, we can now include those of our microbes in studies of human health and disease. This is a significant shift in the way we approach human biology.

Gut affect our health by producing vitamins, priming our immune system and contributing to resistance to pathogens. For example, recent studies have shown that the insulin resistance of patients with type 2 diabetes is linked to the intestinal microbiota composition and can be beneficially altered by replacing it with the microbiota of healthy donors.

The genes of our , also known as the microbiome, act as a personalized organ that can be modified by diet, lifestyle and antibiotics. This organ is fed partly by us and partly by our diets. Professor de Vos and colleagues have classified the human microbiome into three enterotypes: clusters of microbiomes with similar compositions and nutrient-processing preferences. These enterotypes are characterized by bacteria with different capacities to degrade carbohydrate and mucin (a gel-forming protein which produces mucus). Our gut microbes get carbohydrates partly from our diet, whereas the mucin is produced by our own body.

Although these enterotypes are separated by species composition, it doesn't necessarily follow that abundant functions are provided by abundant species. To investigate the relationship between the microbiome and health, scientists must establish the functions of the products of their microbiomes.

"We have evolved with the microbes in our gut, our microbes inside, and have discovered that they talk to us and we feed them with, among other things, the mucins we produce. We now are trying to unravel their functions and understand exactly what these microbes and their products mean to " said Professor de Vos.

The size of one microbial metagenome (one host's microbiome) is 150 times larger than the human genome and encodes 100 times more genes than our own genome. This extensive gene catalogue could enable us to study potential associations between microbial genes and human phenotypes and even environmental factors like diet, throughout the length of our lifetime.

Explore further: Mycologist promotes agarikon as a possibility to counter growing antibiotic resistance

More information: On 10 October 2011, Professor Willem M. de Vos will present the fourth Environmental Microbiology Lecture: "Microbes Inside"

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Bacterial balance that keeps us healthy

Mar 04, 2010

The thousands of bacteria, fungi and other microbes that live in our gut are essential contributors to our good health. They break down toxins, manufacture some vitamins and essential amino acids, and form a barrier against ...

Antibiotics disrupt gut ecology, metabolism

Apr 20, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Humans carry several pounds of microbes in our gastro-intestinal tracts. Recent research suggests that this microbial ecosystem plays a variety of critical roles in our health. Now, working in a mouse model, ...

Overweight? Get someone else's gut bacteria

Mar 18, 2011

People who are overweight may have different gut bacteria from those in their slender fellow human beings. This is the contention of Willem de Vos, professor of Microbiology at Wageningen University, The Netherlands, in his ...

Is cleanliness wiping out our immune system?

Jun 02, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Too much cleanliness has been linked to the alarming rise in auto-immune and allergic diseases in the Western world, says Professor Barbara Fazekas de St Groth from the Centenary Institute. But the answer ...

Recommended for you

YEATS protein potential therapeutic target for cancer

Oct 23, 2014

Federal Express and UPS are no match for the human body when it comes to distribution. There exists in cancer biology an impressive packaging and delivery system that influences whether your body will develop cancer or not.

Precise and programmable biological circuits

Oct 23, 2014

A team led by ETH professor Yaakov Benenson has developed several new components for biological circuits. These components are key building blocks for constructing precisely functioning and programmable bio-computers.

User comments : 0