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Our microbes, ourselves
Date:1/19/2009

In terms of diversity and sheer numbers, the microbes occupying the human gut easily dwarf the billions of people inhabiting the Earth. Numbering in the tens of trillions and representing many thousands of distinct genetic families, this microbiome, as it's called, helps the body perform a variety of regulatory and digestive functions, many still poorly understood.

How this microbial mlange may be linked to body weight changes associated with morbid obesity is a relevant and important clinical question that has received recent attention. Now, a new study suggests that the composition of microbes within the gut may hold a key to one cause of obesityand the prospect of future treatment.

In the January 19 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, researchers at Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute in collaboration with colleagues at the Mayo Clinic, Arizona, and the University of Arizona, reveal a tantalizing link between differing microbial populations in the human gut and body weight among three distinct groups: normal weight individuals, those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery, and patients suffering the condition of morbid obesitya serious, often life-threatening condition associated with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and psychosocial disorders. Obesity affects around 4 million Americans and, each year, some 300,000 die from obesity-related illness.

A collaboration aimed at uncovering the links between the microbial composition of the human gut and morbid obesity began when Dr. John DiBaise, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic, Arizona, became interested in both the underlying mechanisms of obesity and plausible alternatives to gastric bypass surgerystill the only reliable long-term treatment for the extremely overweight.

DiBaise turned to Bruce Rittmann, Ph.D., an environmental engineer and a member of National Academy of Engineering, w
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Contact: Joe Caspermeyer
joseph.caspermeyer@asu.edu
480-313-2010
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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