"Organisms producing hydrogen and acetate create a situation like cars flooding onto the highway. The methanogens, which remove the hydrogen, are like the offramps, allowing the hydrogen cars to get off. That allows more acetate cars to get on, because some hydrogen cars are coming off the highway."
The methanogen offramps, by removing hydrogen, accelerate the efficient fermentation of otherwise indigestible plant polysaccharides and carbohydrates. The effect is to boost production of SCFAs, particularly acetate, which will be taken up by the intestinal epithelium and converted to fat. The result over time may be increasing weight, eventually leading to obesity.
While weight regulation involves a complex interplay of genetic predisposition, exercise, eating habits, and other factors, manipulation of the gut's microflora, particularly the methanogenic Archaea, may provide additional avenues for the treatment of morbid obesity.
The researchers stress that the study is preliminary, but were encouraged by the findings from their small sample. Future investigation is needed to establish the differences in composition of gut microbiota across different age groups and under varying weight-loss regimens involving diet and exercise. Nevertheless, the study's findings point to new avenues for modifying the body's energy harvesting efficiencyperhaps by manipulation of the Bacteria-Archaea nexus.
|Contact: Joe Caspermeyer|
Arizona State University