Genetic study reveals how gut bacteria work to keep us healthy

An international team of scientists led by the University of Glasgow has announced a new advance in our understanding of how bacteria in our gut can provide positive health benefits.

The breakthrough findings, published in Nature Chemical Biology, found here, provides evidence that it may be possible to design drugs to mimic these positive health benefits in a way that might be used to treat diseases such as type II diabetes.

It is known that bacteria in the gut can provide positive health benefits. However, the mechanism by which gut bacteria works has been unclear.

Image of intestineIn a four-year study, the Glasgow team used a combination of genetics  and pharmacology to ask if one of these receptor proteins – called short chain free fatty acid receptor 2 (FFA2) – when activated selectively by drugs, generated responses in the body that underpin the health benefits of gut bacteria.

Professor Andrew Tobin, Professor of Molecular Pharmacology, Institute of Molecular Cell and Systems Biology, said: “Through a clever genetic trick, we have been able to determine firstly, that the levels of glucose in our blood and fat in our bodies can be controlled by gut bacteria. This is done via a specific receptor protein in our body, and we believe that the positive health benefits of gut bacteria can be mimicked by drugs that activate this receptor protein.”

First published: 4 August 2019