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Specific populations of gut bacteria linked to fatty liver
Date:1/31/2011

The more we learn about biology, the closer we get to being able to treat disease and the more complicated our understanding of disease itself becomes.

A new research finding showing a strong relationship between complex microbial ecologies in human intestines and the common but serious medical condition known as fatty liver illustrates this paradox.

From past genomic studies, we have learned that a mind-boggling multitude of different kinds of benign bacteria inhabit our intestines and that these populations can vary almost infinitely from one human being to the next. We know that the kind of food we eat is important to our health and we know that having the right bacteria in our intestines is important in digesting our food properly, but we still do not know how our individual variations in gut bacteria might influence more specific health issues. In particular, we do not know how these bacteria influence how the substances we eat affect our organ systems.

In the condition known as fatty liver, fat deposits build up in the liver, with potentially serious health consequences for nearly a third of the American population. Fatty liver can be caused by alcohol abuse, obesity, hormonal changes and/or diabetes. Recent work has suggested that diet is also important with strong indications that deficiencies in the essential nutrient choline might be partially involved in some incidences of the condition. Choline deficiency also implicates genetics, since many people lack the genes to efficiently make choline internally.

Now, a new bioinformatics finding shows that the abundance or scarcity of certain types of bacteria in the gut may also help predict susceptibility to non-alcoholic fatty liver. The implication of the finding is that these groups of bacteria may be influencing the body's ability to properly use the choline available in food, though the study does not examine the specific metabolic activity of the bacteri
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Contact: James Hathaway
jbhathaw@uncc.edu
704-687-5743
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Source:Eurekalert

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