Medical

Hereditary gut microbes found to influence weight gain

Hereditary gut microbes found ...
A genetically-inherited microbe naturally found in the gut that is more common in thin people may pave the way for personalized probiotic therapies for obesity-related diseases (Image: Shutterstock)
A genetically-inherited microbe naturally found in the gut that is more common in thin people may pave the way for personalized probiotic therapies for obesity-related diseases (Image: Shutterstock)
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A genetically-inherited microbe naturally found in the gut that is more common in thin people may pave the way for personalized probiotic therapies for obesity-related diseases (Image: Shutterstock)
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A genetically-inherited microbe naturally found in the gut that is more common in thin people may pave the way for personalized probiotic therapies for obesity-related diseases (Image: Shutterstock)

A new study has determined that not only are bacteria naturally found in the gut involved in obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, but they are genetically inherited. Researchers at King's College London and Cornell University identified a highly-heritable bacterial family that is more common in individuals with low body weight and that could pave the way for genetics-based personalized probiotic therapies for obesity-related diseases.

The study examined 1,081 fecal samples taken from 977 people – 171 pairs of identical twins and 245 pairs of non-identical twins, plus 145 other, individual twins. Microbes from a bacterial family called Christensenellaceae, and to a lesser extent other specific microbe populations, were significantly more similar in the identical twins than non-identical twins, suggesting a strong genetic (and thus hereditary) influence in gut microbe composition.

The study suggests that altering the Christensenellaceae population may have a direct impact on susceptibility to obesity, as mice treated with the microbe gained less weight than untreated mice. The researchers believe that similar personalized microbe treatments in humans could be a promising new aid in the fight against obesity – both in terms of prevention and reduction.

But first they need to expand their research and test the microbiomes of the broader population – not just twins – to better understand the links between genetics, microbes, and weight loss and gain. For this, co-author and King's College London professor Tim Spector urges people living in the UK to sign up to the crowdsourced British Gut Project to have their microbes genetically tested. "We want thousands to join up so we can continue to make major discoveries about the links between our gut and our health," Spector says.

In other studies, gut microbes have also been identified as the key to dark chocolate's health benefits and as being linked to food allergies, and potential probiotic therapies may help both this and obesity.

A paper describing the research into the heredity of gut microbes was published in the journal Cell.

Source: King's College London

5 comments
Threesixty
Gut microbes are part of our being...this research indicates a change of diet is gene therapy. Diet can be changed before or after birth and the genes will follow.
Gary Bonney
" highly-heritable bacterial family that is more common in individuals with low body weight " Does that mean it can also be a result of your diet therefore invalidating the research?
William Carr
@Gary Bonney
It’s possible identical twins could have “similar” diets, but they wouldn’t be likely to have identical diets.
Mice treated with this particular strain of Bacteria gained less weight than controls.
Earlier experiments found strains of bacteria that caused mice to GAIN weight compared to controls.
So the theory is that Bacteria play a vital part in breaking down food in the intestines.
Not all bacteria are identical in this ability.
If you had NO Bacteria in your gut you might be horribly constipated and unable to absorb trace minerals you need.
Some strains would be LESS likely to break down our high-carb starchy foods, and thus we would be less likely to put on weight.
Some stains might be INCREDIBLY good at breaking down starchy foods into a form we can absorb, and thus we would be MORE likely to put on weight.
The bacterial strains are evolving at lightning speed, compared to humans.
And since we pass them on, during childbirth or from skin contact, our diet shapes their evolution, and their evolution then affects US.
It’s possible that the tremendous amounts of High Fructose Corn Syrup Americans eat has bred a strain of gut bacteria that’s hyper-efficient at converting carbohydrates.
Simply replacing that with a weaker strain of bacteria would finally let overweight people start to lose weight.
The Sci-Fi futurist in me predicts a product people drink like a liquid yogurt; it suppresses native bacteria with a constant barrage of “safe” bacteria.
And it should be highly useful for international travelers worried about “Montezuma’s Revenge”.
John Birk
Research indicates that fecal transplants can have a similar effect, time will tell.
Though I suspect that if it works it will challenge the social order, like in a Wolf packs (which is a social species), there is always an Omega that everyone picks on and since we are also a social species we also have our own version of "Omegas", usually someone whom is different and one of the most common different people that get picked on are fat people.
Then there is the multi billion dollar diet and weight loss industry, they will not be happy to see their profits disappear and not return as the number of people who manage to maintain their weight loss, (less than 5%), will now be cured and lost as future customers, yes the weight loss/diet industry will really really hate this.
antiguajohn
Gregg Eshelman
Look up RePOOPulate. That's a "synthetic" version of a fecal transplant. A select group of bacteria was cultured from the stool of a person who hadn't taken any antibiotics for at least a decade.
Fecal transplants have been very successful in treating C. Difficile infections. It's an extremely antibiotic resistant bacteria and it's also not at all a good one to have in your innards.
Some success has been had treating various intestinal disorders with fecal transplants from people who don't have any such problems.
If you have Chron's, colitis, celiac, lactose intolerance, IBS etc, it shouldn't hurt to try such treatment as long as the donor doesn't have HIV or other incurable or chronic viral or bacterial infection.
That's why RePOOPulate - to have a guaranteed disease organism free material for the treatment.
Has there been any study looking at the onset of intestinal disorders after taking powerful antibiotics orally to treat an infection? What about antibiotics by IV? Do they also wreak havoc on the beneficial intestinal bacteria?