26 March 2013

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Making sense of the relationship between gut microbes and obesity

Obese mouse, non-obese mouse. Photo via Nothing in Biology Makes Sense.
Over at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense, Sarah Hird discusses an attempt to suss out whether your gut microbes change when you're overweight, or your gut microbes can make you overweight.

Historically, medical research has focused on pathogenic bacteria when trying to understand the relationship between human health and microorganisms. This makes intuitive sense – since pathogens make us sick – but our bodies host way more nonpathogenic bacteria than pathogens and they function in keeping us healthy. Our gastrointestinal tract has trillions of bacteria in it and much recent work has been trying to understand these complex communities. Mice are a common model for understanding human gut microbes and health. Enter Obie, the obese mouse (Figure 1, left) and Lenny, the lean mouse (right).

The new study demonstrates that bacteria cultured from the gut of an obese mouse cause normal-weight mice to gain weight when they're fed a high-fat diet—and that the genetically similar mice without the bacteria can eat the same diet without becoming obese. You should definitely go read the whole thing.◼

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