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Genetically Modified Bacteria Keep Mice in Shape

The microbes appear to live in the gut and prevent obesity for up to four weeks.

Labmouse

Albino Lab Mouse. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

To feed mice with a genetically altered version of E. coli, a bacterium living naturally in human and mice guts, the researchers were capable of preventing mice from gaining weight in their efforts to design the microbes for expression of a substance called N-acylphosphatidylethanolamine or NAPE for short term. The bodies of mice and humans could convert this substance into a hormone when food digestion is carried out. Therefore this hormone then goes further to the brain through the bloodstream, thus reducing appetite. It would clearly explain the reason why mice with this new bacterium in their guts would eat more than they should, without any obvious ill effects.

This new study published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, shows that when mice fed with the microbe in their drinking water and those not given the bacteria were   put on a high-fat diet. The former would eat less and gain less weight. They also present less insulin resistance, a marker for diabetes.

The research result could make it possible that if these bacteria could be generally amounted to an engineered probiotic, they could be imported into humans for the same purpose. It was hypothetical at the moment, because mice are not humans, but it should inspire scientists to move on for the actual application.

In addition, if such microbe could be safely applied to the humans, it would greatly affect the current treatment for obesity, because many recent anti-obesity drugs fail to get real effect in their treatment.

The bacteria seems to last in the gut for about four weeks, a period of time long enough to make interventions better than taking a pill each day. As E. coli naturally live in the gut, so it has certain advantage over other probiotics, which is usually unable to colonize the human intestines well.

Source: Forbes

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