Researchers at the University of Utah Health have identified a specific class of bacteria from the gut that prevents mice from becoming obese.
Weight loss and weight control drugs have not been very successful to date, however, researchers at the University of Utah Health may have found a new approach. They have been investigating the microbiome — the bacteria and other microorganisms present on the skin and in the intestine of humans — and its impact on health.
One recent result was the identification of a class of bacteria found in the gut to prevent weight gain in mice. Healthy mice have a large quantity of Clostridia bacteria, while those with an impaired immune system lose these microbes from their gut as they age. Research indicated that the mice with impaired immune systems became obese, even when fed a healthy diet. When the bacteria were replaced in their cut, they did not gain weight.
The Clostridia were found to produce specific molecules that prevent weight gain by blocking the intestine's ability to absorb fat. Mice designed with only Clostridia bacteria in the gut had less fat and lower levels of the CD36 gene, which regulates the uptake of fatty acids, than mice with no microbiome at all.
Compared to the use of fecal transplants and probiotics as means to restore healthy microbiomes, the Utah scientists believe that developing therapeutics that target the molecules produced by the bacteria could lead to effective treatments for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other related metabolic disorders. The team first needs to isolate and characterize the molecules before pursuing this option.