Throughout the world, since 1980 obesity has witnessed an increase by two folds. As per the WHO, obesity is the cause of 3.4 million deaths each year and these figures are on an ever rise. The seriousness of the issue is genuine as doctors, as well as the governments, are using public awareness campaigns to encourage people to stay healthy and rely on a low-fat diet. And as a matter of fact, we all unanimously agree that this is just not enough but what if the real problem could be seen through inside out?
The real importance of the plethora of microorganisms that reside in our gut has just recently been realized by scientists. Studies have shown that this diversely humungous bacterial ecosystem, which is named as the: gut microbiota, works in unison to moderate the immune as well as the digestive system.
Sean Davies, assistant professor of pharmacology at Vanderbilt University quotes that “The types of bacteria you have in your gut influence your risk for chronic diseases. We wondered if we could manipulate the gut microbiota in a way that would promote health,” To reach to the answer to that question he underwent a study with mice, so as to learn the possibility of genetically modified gut bacteria affecting the body’s health.
The study was performed by testing a strain of safe bacteria, E coli Nissle 1917 (which has been used to treat diarrhea since it’s discovery). The strains of the probiotics bacteria were altered to register increased amounts of NAPE, a hormone which is inherently secreted by the small intestine on the digestion of fat thereby sending a message of satiation to the brain. It has been previously seen in various researches that obese animals cannot synthesize these hormones in the required amount, hence the extent of satiety is never reached and they keep over-eating.
For the study these modified bacteria were fed into the mice through drinking water, additionally, they were fed a high-fat diet. It was observed that the modified bacteria-fed mice ate less, gained less weight and had few markers for diabetes when compared to the control group mice i.e., the mice who drank regular water. It was evidently seen that even 12 weeks post this experiment the former group of mice happened to be healthier than the latter.
Davies, (lead author of the study) in the Journal of Clinical Investigation says that “We still haven’t achieved our ultimate goal, which would be doing one treatment and then never have to administer the bacteria again,”,
Though it is pretty hard to speculate whether similar results will be observed in humans, various regulatory issues are to be taken care of before duplicating these studies on humans. It goes without saying that no harmful results were observed the previous study (and the observations seem to be affirmative), but still, extensive studies have to be undergone to ensure that there are no modified bacteria will not act as a health hazard to humans.