Student Life - St-Louis, MO, USA... of the Center for Genome Sciences at the School of Medicine, and the Dr ... down polysaccharides, a carbohydrate found in plants that are integrated into everything ...When a grocery shopper glances at the nutritional information on a box of Cheerios, the number of calories is 110 calories for a serving size of one cup. But depending on the type of bacteria living in the shopper's gut, the full 110 calories may not be fully absorbed. The number of calories denotes "the absolute amount of energy in that serving, and shoppers with different [types] of bacteria in their gut may harvest and store different amounts of energy from that same serving," said Jeffrey Gordon, the director of the Center for Genome Sciences at the School of Medicine, and the Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor.
Over 800 species of microbes live in the human gut. Consequently, research on bacteria may be able to offer insights about how energy and weight are stored in the human body. Gut bacteria also may be the key to drug therapies that could treat a variety of digestive or weight loss processes. Gordon, along with Ruth Ley, an instructor in molecular biology and pharmacology, recently received approval from the National Institutes of Health to sequence 100 microbial genomes.
"We think of this as the next logical step in the human genome project because the micro-biome is an integral part of our genetic landscape," said Gordon. "We can begin to understand the different types of properties these organisms bring to us.
""Most people think of bacteria as being adversaries, pathogens, [but] we think that most of our encounters with microbes are friendly and mutually beneficial," he continued.
Although the microbes that reside in human guts are foreign entities, often introduced at the time of birth, from mothers and from the environment, they are essential to digestion and fat storage. "We've done experiments in [bacteria] free mice that show that when you add bacteria in a very short period of time, the mice acquire a market increase of 60 percent in the amount of fat cells," Gordon said.