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Enterome: the gut microbiome and its impact on our health

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Published on Jan 9, 2014

As humans, we live and draw resources from communities of people. Interestingly, our bodies also house their own complex communities of human cells and microorganisms that work together. In fact, our bodies are made up of more bacterial cells than human cells! All of the microorganisms that live in and on our bodies compose the microbiome, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses... Our intestine is hosting the largest bacterial community: 100 trillion microorganisms that make up the gut microbiome.

So what is the role of these gut microorganisms in our bodies?
The gut microbiome, for a long time ignored, is now considered as full organ with key functions for the body development. Actually, it promotes the development of a functional intestine and helps digest food to provide the nutrients necessary for our growth and well-being. By a tight and interactive communication between host cells and the gut microbiome, helpful microorganisms are selectively colonizing gut and participate to the development and maintenance of a well-balanced immune system. The gut microbiome modulates the secretion of certain hormones and vitamins like serotonin or vitamin K. The microbiome also regulates energy extraction from the ingested food. Finally, the gut microbiome provides an effective barrier against infection by harmful pathogens in our intestine.

So where does this microbiome come from?
At birth, the guts of newborns are sterile and according to the mode of delivery they are colonizing by microorganisms with which the babies were first in contact. Then, the gut microbiome composition is fluctuating in a dynamic process with a selective pressure induced by diet, genetics and environmental exposures. Infections and the use of antibiotics can cause significative and sometimes irreversible effects on the future adult gut composition. From the age of 3, the gut microbiome is becoming closer from the adult final composition, becomes mature, highly diverse and relatively stable. Some factors can affect timely its composition: for instance, diet changes, transitory use of antibiotics. Fortunately, our gut microbiome is very resilient and can return to its original composition after a disturbance.




However, chronic alteration of the gut microbiome (going from a loss of global diversity to more specific destruction of some communities) can cause lasting changes to its composition that may contribute to disease development. Because our gut microbiome serves to regulate our immune system, alterations in its composition can promote inflammation and immune system dysregulation, such as in Crohn's disease, or allergies. Our gut microbiome plays a role in food metabolism so changes in its composition could promote metabolic conditions such as obesity, diabetes or metabolic induced hepatitis. Because these microbes act as a barrier to harmful pathogens, persistent damages to the community can be linked to the development of some infectious or hospital acquired diseases. Finally, changes in the gut microbiome also believed to influence chemistry to the brain and contribute to CNS diseases like depression or Parkinson's disease.

So as you can tell, the gut microbiome influences biology from our liver to our brains, which has far reaching implications for our health. There is still much we need to understand about the role of the different microorganisms and what defines a healthy vs. diseased microbiome, but much progress is being made around the world to better understand this intriguing community that lives in our bodies.

Enterome is focusing on studying gut composition in relation with pathological states and delivering to the patients - with its unique Metagenotyping ® process - specific microbiome biomarkers with clinical utility for treatment response prediction and disease activity monitoring.

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