Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Metabolomics & Lipidomics
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Bug Guts Map Brings Scientists Closer to Understanding Different Bugs' Role in the Body

Published: Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Last Updated: Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Bookmark and Share
Scientists mapped the different species of bugs living in seven members of the same Chinese family.

Scientists have made a major step towards understanding which bugs in the gut are involved in which processes in the body, by mapping the different species of bugs living in seven members of the same Chinese family.

Bugs in the gut are known as gut microbes and trillions live symbiotically inside the human body. Different people can have very different populations of gut microbes living inside them.

The makeup of each person's gut microflora influences their health, and abnormalities in gut microbes have been linked to diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

Research has already shown that the makeup of an individual's gut microbes is can be changed by their diet and other environmental factors. Scientists are hopeful that many diseases could be tackled by creating drugs that target different gut bugs and correct abnormalities in them.

However, although it is known that gut bugs are involved in many of the body's processes, the relationship between different species of bug and different processes has previously been defined only at a broad level, mainly concentrating on the metabolism of fat.

This is partly because it is difficult to observe the interactions inside a living human body in such microscopic detail. Mapping the species of gut microflora inside a person requires DNA fingerprinting of the bugs and detailed analysis is extremely complex and expensive. Prior to the new study, only five people in the world had ever had their gut microflora profiled in depth and had these data published.

The new study is a major step towards fully defining how different gut bugs affect the metabolism - the chemical reactions inside the body that keep it working, for example in converting food into energy or in maintaining cells.

The researchers believe that once they have a complete map of the interactions between the bugs and the metabolism, they will be able to use metabolic information to determine the makeup and function of a person's gut microflora, and then find new ways to treat different diseases by targeting specific gut bugs and engineering their interactions with the host.

The new study brings researchers closer to creating this system of translating the makeup of a person's gut bugs by analyzing their metabolic profile.  

The research gives scientists a much better idea of which bugs are particularly key. For example, the researchers found that a common "friendly" species of gut bug known as Faecalibacterium prausnitzii was statistically linked to the presence of eight diverse chemicals involved in metabolism, suggesting that this bug plays a key role in co-regulating multiple metabolic processes. 

Professor Jeremy Nicholson, lead author of the study from the Department of Biomolecular Medicine at Imperial College London, explained: "It's now widely recognized that gut bugs play an important part in people's health but we don't know which of the hundreds of different species of gut microbes have the biggest influence on us, or exactly how they are involved in the thousands of processes inside the body. Our new study has enabled us to see and map to a greater extent than ever before how the bugs interact with the body.

"Now we have developed a new way of exploring the connections between bugs and man we can hope to find a 'Rosetta Stone' to translate the functional properties of the bugs and so improve therapies to treat disorders of the gut and related conditions," he added.

The study also showed that the Chinese individuals had different bacteria at the species level to the five American individuals profiled in previous studies. This suggests that there are significant differences in the metabolisms of people from the two countries, which are not just down to their own genetic makeup. The researchers suggest that these differences should be taken into account when looking at people's risks of different diseases in the two countries. 

Prof Liping Zhao, coordinator of this project and senior author leading the microbial analysis from Shanghai Centre for Systems Biomedicine at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, indicated that this new methodology is a significant step toward understanding whole-body systems biology or global systems biology.

"Simultaneous molecular profiling of gut microbiota and host metabolism of a large cohort of people for a reasonably long time can lead to discovery of pre-disease biomarkers representing typical changes during the transition stage from health to disease in chronic conditions such as cancers or metabolic syndromes. This can eventually lead to effective management of public health in a predictive and preventive manner," he said.

For the study, scientists used DNA fingerprinting of the gut microflora to gain a picture of which species of bug were living inside each of the seven volunteers. Each volunteer had a different makeup of gut bugs inside them, even though they were members of the same Chinese family and therefore were closely linked in genetic and lifestyle terms.

The scientists compared the variations in the volunteers' gut microflora with the variations in their metabolisms. They determined the metabolic profile of the volunteers by analyzing samples from their faeces and urine, using NMR spectroscopic urinary profiling.

The volunteers in the study were four generations of the same family, six living in China and one in the UK. Three were males, aged between 18 and 55, and four were females aged between 1.5 and 95. Although the sample size was small, this is still the largest survey of its kind to date and the study represents two years' work.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,600+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Urine Profiles Provide Clues To How Obesity Causes Disease
Scientists have identified chemical markers in urine associated with body mass, providing insights into how obesity causes disease.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Light-activated Drug Could Reduce Side Effects of Diabetes Medication
Scientists have created a drug for type 2 diabetes that is switched on by blue light, which they hope will improve treatment of the disease.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Metabolic 'Fingerprinting' of Tumours Could Help Bowel Cancer Patients
New research makes it possible to see how advanced a bowel cancer is by looking at its metabolic 'fingerprint.'
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
New Laboratory Aims to Revolutionise Surgery with Real-Time Metabolic Profiling
Metabolic profiling of tissue samples could transform the way surgeons make decisions in the operating theatre, say researchers at a new laboratory being launched today.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Some Morbidly Obese People are Missing Genes, Shows New Research
According to the new findings, around seven in every thousand morbidly obese people are missing a part of their DNA.
Friday, February 05, 2010
Heart Rhythm Gene Revealed in new Research
Discovery could help scientists design more targeted drugs to prevent and treat certain heart problems.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Research Reveals Exactly How Coughing is Triggered by Environmental Irritants
Scientists identify the reaction inside the lungs that can trigger coughing when a person is exposed to particular irritants in the air.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Ironing Out the Genetic Cause of Hemoglobin Problems
A gene with a significant effect on regulating hemoglobin in the body has been identified as part of a genome-wide association study.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Scientists Discover new Genetic Variation that Contributes to Diabetes
Study identifies a genetic variation in people with type 2 diabetes that affects how the body's muscle cells respond to the hormone insulin.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Think Zinc: Molecular Sensor Could Reveal Zinc's Role in Diseases
Scientists develop a new molecular sensor to analyze the amount of zinc in cells.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Urine Samples could be Used to Predict Responses to Drugs, Say Researchers
Researchers show possibility to predict how different individuals would deal with one drug by looking at metabolites in their urine.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Glutamic Acid Linked to Lower Blood Pressure
The new research suggests that glutamic acid may be one of the components of vegetable protein linked to lower blood pressure.
Monday, July 06, 2009
On-the-spot DNA Analysis to Test Tolerance to Prescription Drugs Gets Closer
A handheld device to predict whether patients will respond adversely to medication is one step closer to the market.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Childhood Obesity Risk Increased 50 Percent by new Genetic Mutations, Says Study
Three new genetic mutations that together can increase a very young child's risk of becoming obese by 50 percent are revealed in a new study.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Common Mutations Linked to Common Obesity in Europeans
Scientists have discovered two common genetic mutations in people of European ancestry, which affect the production of several hormones controlling our appetite.
Monday, July 07, 2008
Scientific News
Newly Identified Biochemical Pathway Could Be Target for Insulin Control
Researchers at Duke Medicine and the University of Alberta are reporting the identification of a new biochemical pathway to control insulin secretion from islet beta cells in the pancreas, establishing a potential target for insulin control.
Dirty,Crusty Meals Fit for (Long-Dormant) Microbes
Researchers apply the latest analytical techniques to further our understanding of desert biocrusts.
CSI -- On The Metabolite's Trail
Bioinformaticians at the University of Jena make the most efficient search engine for molecular structures available online.
Developing a Breathalyzer-Type Low Blood Sugar Warning Device For Diabetes
A multidisciplinary team of researchers at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis has been awarded a $738,000 National Science Foundation grant to develop a breathalyzer-type device to detect the onset of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar episodes, in people with diabetes.
Identifying The 'Dimmer Switch' Of Diabetes
University of Alberta research gives new insight into what causes Type 2 diabetes.
10 to 1: Bugs Win in NASA study
Bugs are winning out, and that's a good thing according to NASA's Human Research Program.
MYC Oncogene Disrupts Cancers Rhythm
Findings inform time-dependent treatment for reducing side effects and increasing effectiveness of cancer medications.
Keeping Gut Bacteria in Balance Could Help Delay Age-related Diseases
A new study suggests that analyzing intestinal bacteria could be a promising way to predict health outcomes as we age.
Genome Mining Effort Discovers 19 New Natural Products in Four Years
Each of these products is a potential new drug. One of them has already been identified as an antibiotic.
New CRISPR-Cas9 Strategy Edits Genes Two Ways
A team of Harvard and MIT researchers have developed a way to perform genome engineering and gene regulation at the same time.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,600+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos