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Gene Sequencing Yields Picture of Human Gut
Date:3/4/2010

Researchers identify 160 different species of bacteria

THURSDAY, March 4 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have succeeded in sequencing 3.3 million genes from organisms residing in the human gut.

And it appears that each person harbors at least 160 species of bacteria in their gut, far more than originally estimated, according to a paper appearing in the March 4 issue of Nature. The research was led by researchers in China as part of the MetaHIT (Metagenomics of the Human Intestinal Tract) project.

Although this is just the first tiny dent in a mountain of work to be done, the findings should help experts understand both human health and human illness better.

"This is so rich. It could help in so many different ways. It could help us understand diseases like inflammatory bowel disease [IBD], Crohn's and ulcerative colitis. It could help us with problems like malnutrition and obesity. It could help us understand many different metabolic problems from liver disease to kidney to heart disease," said Dr. Martin Blaser, chairman of the department of medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center and a professor of microbiology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City. "This is really a landmark study."

Humans coexist peacefully and sometimes not so peacefully with legions of microorganisms in their gut. An estimated 100 trillion cells make up these microbes. That's 10 times the number of human cells in the body.

"There are symbiotic relationships with these bacteria," explained Dr. Brian Currie, vice president and medical director for research at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. "They make substances we need ... and there's a body of literature that suggests that the interaction with these bacteria may have something to do with immune modulation as well. It's a largely unexplored area."

Another expert, Jeffrey Cirillo, a professor of microbial and m
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