Researchers at University of Utah Health have identified a specific class of bacteria from the gut that prevents mice from becoming obese, suggesting these same microbes may similarly control weight in people. The beneficial bacteria, called Clostridia, are part of the microbiome – collectively, trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that inhabit the intestine. Published in the July 26, 2019 issue of Science, the study shows that healthy mice have plenty of Clostridia -- a class of 20 to 30 bacteria -- but those mice with an impaired immune system lose these microbes from their gut as they age. Even when fed a healthy diet, the mice inevitably become obese. Giving this class of microbes back to these animals allowed them to stay slim. The Science article is titled “T Cell-Mediated Regulation of the Microbiota Protects Against Obesity.” June Round, PhD, an Associate Professor of Pathology at U of U Health, is the study's co-senior author along with U of U Health Research Assistant Professor W. Zac Stephens, PhD. Charisse Petersen, PhD, a graduate student at the time, led the research. "Now that we've found the minimal bacteria responsible for this slimming effect, we have the potential to really understand what the organisms are doing and whether they have therapeutic value," Dr. Round says. Results from this study are already pointing in that direction. Dr. Petersen and colleagues found that Clostridia prevents weight gain by blocking the intestine's ability to absorb fat. Mice experimentally treated so that Clostridia were the only bacteria living in their gut were leaner with less fat than mice that had no microbiome at all. They also had lower levels of a gene, CD36, that regulates the body's uptake of fatty acids.
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