Scientists target gut bacteria to reduce weight gain

Beneficial Gut Bacteria

In the US, more than 1/3 of adults are obese, putting them at greater risk for conditions such as fatty liver disease (caused by fatty deposits building up in the liver) and atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries).

Previous findings have shown that the microorganisms living in the gut, known as the gut microbiota, play an important role in obesity and may offer a new therapeutic target.

In a recent study, researchers develop a new therapy that involves engineered gut bacteria to help reduce the obesity-related health problems.

This new therapy incorporates the engineered bacteria into the guts of mice that kept them from gaining weight and protected them against some of the negative health effects of obesity.

The finding is recently presented at the American Physiological Society’s Inflammation, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease conference.

Researchers from Vanderbilt University led the study. They tested whether obesity-related diseases might be treated or even prevented by altering the gut microbiota.

To find out, they engineered gut bacteria that produce a small lipid that helps suppress appetite and reduce inflammation. People who are obese typically produce less of this lipid, which is made by the small intestine.

The result showed that standard mice eating a high-fat diet while also receiving the engineered bacteria via drinking water gained less body weight and body fat than mice given standard drinking water or control bacteria.

Researchers also gave the engineered bacteria to mice with increased susceptibility to atherosclerosis and fatty liver disease. They found these mice accumulated less fat in the liver and showed reduced expression of markers of liver fibrosis, compared to mice that did not receive the treatment.

In addition, the treated mice exhibited a modest trend toward reduced atherosclerotic plaques.

Researchers suggest that in the future, it might be possible to treat the worst effects of obesity simply by administering these bacteria. Because of the sustainability of gut bacteria, this treatment would not need to be every day.

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Citation: American Physiological Society. (2016). Researchers Target Gut Bacteria to Reduce Weight Gain. Media Release.
Figure legend: This image is credited to National Institutes of Health (NIH).