Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU)and other institutions have discovered an important link between the immune system, gut bacteria, and glucose metabolism -- a "cross-talk" and interaction that can lead to type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome when not functioning correctly. The findings, published online on November 14, 2016 in Nature Communications, are one example of how different mammalian systems can affect each other in ways not previously understood. A better understanding of these systems, researchers say, may lead to new probiotic approaches to diabetes and other diseases. The open-access article is titled “Akkermansia muciniphila Mediates Negative Effects of IFNγ on Glucose Metabolism.” The research also shows the general importance of proper bacterial functions in the gut and the role of one bacterium in particular -- Akkermansia muciniphila -- in helping to regulate glucose metabolism. This bacterium's function is so important, scientists say, that it has been conserved through millions of years of evolution to perform a similar function in both mice and humans. "We're discovering that in biology there are multiple connections and communications, what we call cross-talk, that are very important in ways we're just beginning to understand," said Dr. Natalia Shulzhenko, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, and one of the corresponding authors on this study. "It's being made clear by a number of studies that our immune system, in particular, is closely linked to other metabolic functions in ways we never realized. This is still unconventional thinking, and it's being described as a new field called immunometabolism.
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