Trillions of symbiotic microorganisms have evolved with and continue to live on and within human beings. Paired with other tiny organisms like viruses and fungi, they make up what’s known as microbiota, or the microbiome. During recent years, the gut microbiota has been associated with the health of the host and several disease conditions. However, only a few studies have investigated whether an altered gut microbiota can directly affect disease. Now, a study from researchers at the University of Gothenburg shows gut microbiota has the ability to affect how cells respond to insulin, and, therefore, can contribute to type 2 diabetes. The team states their findings clearly show how important the interaction between gut microbiota and diet is to understanding metabolism in health and disease. The study is published in the journal Cell.
Previous studies show recent advances in understanding the role of gut microbiota in obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes has led to the theory that dietary modifications, prebiotics, probiotics, antibiotics, metformin, fecal transplantation, and bariatric surgery, can effectively alter the composition of gut bacteria. It has been proposed these interventions could be harnessed to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes in the future, however, more work is needed to test their potential. The current study shows there are subpopulations of patients who might benefit from changing their diet or altering their gut microbiota to reduce the levels of imidazole propionate.
The current study analyses various substances in the blood vessel traveling from the intestine to the liver in 649 participants. Results show an elevated concentration of the substance imidazole propionate in patients with type 2 diabetes. Data findings, using fecal samples, show the microbiota of people with type 2 diabetes produced imidazole propionate when histidine was added, a mechanism not found in the diabetes-free control subjects.
Results show the gut microbiota of people with treatment-naïve type 2 diabetes can be linked to a different metabolism of the amino acid histidine observed to be mainly derived from the diet. Data findings show this, in turn, leads to the formation of imidazole propionate, a substance known to impair the cells’ ability to respond to insulin. The lab theorizes reducing the amount of bacterial-produced imidazole propionate may be a new way of treating patients with type 2 diabetes.
The team surmises their results show how the gut microbiome can contribute to Type-2 diabetes. For the future, the researchers state their research paves the way for identification of bacteria-induced mechanisms and stratify patient populations, as well as identifying new personalized forms of treatment.
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Michelle is a health industry veteran who taught and worked in the field before training as a science journalist.
Featured by numerous prestigious brands and publishers, she specializes in clinical trial innovation--expertise she gained while working in multiple positions within the private sector, the NHS, and Oxford University.