Monday, December 17, 2007

Bacterial Balance of Power

Newsflash headline: Key Enzyme In Gut Prevents Inflammation In Zebrafish In Response to Gut Microbiota

University of Oregon (UO) scientists discovered that an enzyme long assumed to be involved in digestion instead is a detoxifying traffic cop, maintaining a friendly rapport between resident gut bacteria and cells.

A deficiency of an enzyme, unpoetically called "intestinal alkaline phosphatase" or "Iap," appears to change the bacterial balance of power in the gut. Without enough healthy Iap enzymes, an unfriendly endotoxin, called "lipopolysaccharide" or "LPS," takes over in the gut. One of the most abundant sources of LPS in vertebrates is the bacteria in their gut.

The UO Study implies that more Iap creates gastrointestinal health, while more LPS creates more chronic diseases like Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.

According to Karen Guillemin, a professor of molecular biology at UO:

"We've shown that the bacteria that reside in our gut play an active role in modulating our immune response to them and help to prevent excessive inflammation," said Guillemin, who is a member of the UO's Institute of Molecular Biology. "There exists a give-and-take mutual co-existence of our resident bacteria and the cells of our gut."

It's a little known fact that there are more than 10 times the number of bacterial cells as human cells in a human body and they weigh over a kilo (over 2 pounds!) in the average person.

According to Jeffrey Gordon, director of the Center for Genome Sciences at Washington University: "Genetically, we are more microbe than human." Talk about balance of power!

Gordon and his colleagues are studying how the suite of bacteria in a given adult's gut may be contributing to obesity, as some bacteria help convert energy in food more efficiently to fat than others! Egad!

Whether you're worried about inflammatory diseases in your gastrointestinal tract (my older brother had Crohn's and my dad had problems with his GI tract at the end) or gaining weight over the holidays (wouldn't that be all of us?), those little bacteria in the gut will weigh in with their trillions of members.

I confessed in an earlier post that I often forget to take my Probiotics 16, as they are best taken a half-hour before eating and I'm not the best planner. I'm making an early New Year's resolution to increase the balance of power in my own gut toward the "friendlies."

Weird. I just noticed that the song I'm listening to as I finish this post is "Get the Balance Right" by Depeche Mode. Okay, I'm listening, I'm getting it.

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