Lab-grown gut microbes could help combat malnutrition, gastrointestinal diseases

Mar 21, 2011

Scientists have taken another step toward understanding human nutrition.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine have shown they can grow entire collections of human intestinal microbes in the laboratory.

Washington University microbiologist Dr. Jeffrey Gordon says his team then transplanted the bacterial communities into previously germ-free mice, to see how the lab-grown bacteria would respond to a human diet.

Gordon says this sort of approach could be used to understand the nutritional value of foods, and how our gut microbial communities are affected by different diets.

“Diets that are representative of different cultures around the world, diets that are emerging as a result of westernization, things that we add to diets – what is the impact of these ingredients not only on our gut microbial community, but our health,” Gordon said.

Gordon says this technique could also be used to identify specific microbes or groups of microbes that play a key role in human nutrition and health – and could eventually help researchers develop treatments for obesity, Crohn’s disease, and other gastrointestinal conditions.