31 agosto 2007

Greedy Guts

From The Economist

ALTHOUGH most people prefer not to think about it, human guts are full of bacteria. And a good thing, too. These intestinal bugs help digestion, and also stop their disease-causing counterparts from invading. In return, their human hosts provide them with a warm place to live and a share of their meals. It is a symbiotic relationship that has worked well for millions of years.

Now it is working rather too well. A group of researchers led by Jeffrey Gordon, of the Washington University School of Medicine, in St Louis, has found that some types of microbes are a lot better than others at providing usable food to their hosts. In the past, when food was scarce, those who harboured such microbes would have been blessed. These days, paradoxically, they are cursed, for the extra food seems to contribute to obesity (...)

Dr Gordon's research is outlined in a paper published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and two others published last month in Nature. In the Nature papers, he and his team reported that obese people have a different mix of gut microbes from that found in lean people—a mix that is more efficient at unlocking energy from the food they consume. Although individuals can harbour up to a thousand different types of microbes, more than 90% of these belong to one or other of two groups, called Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes. The researchers sequenced bacterial DNA from faecal samples taken from volunteers and discovered that those who were obese had a higher proportion of Firmicutes than lean people did. (...)

Lo más curioso son las líneas de investigación que se están desarrollando. ¿Y si se puede encontrar un virus que se cargue las bacterias "eficientes" para que así predominen las "no eficientes"? ¿El resultado sería que la persona adelgaza? Se verá, y quizás antes de lo que pensamos...

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