Categories
GeekWire

Scientists track the arms race in your gut

Gut bacteria
The mixture of bacteria shown in this photomicrograph contains five different species of the genus Bacteroides. (UW Medicine Photo / Mougous Lab / Kevin Cutler)

The balance of bacteria in your gut can make the difference between sickness and health — and now scientists report that different species of bacteria share immunity genes to protect themselves against each other’s toxins and maintain their balance of power.

In effect, closely related species of bacteria acquire each other’s defense systems to fend off threats from alien invaders.

The findings appear in a paper published today in the journal Nature. The senior authors are Joseph Mougous, a microbiology professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine; and Elhanan Borenstein, a former UW Medicine geneticist who now works at Tel Aviv University.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

How are gut microbes connected to memory?

Bacteria and brain
Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are studying how bacteria in the gut can affect the brain’s memory function. (PNNL Illustration)

AUSTIN, Texas — Can probiotic bacteria play a role in how well your memory works? It’s too early to say for sure, but mouse studies have turned up some clues worth remembering.

Preliminary results suggest that giving mice the kinds of bacteria often found in dietary supplements have a beneficial effect on memory when it comes to navigating mazes or avoiding electrical shocks.

One such study, focusing on mazes and object-in-place recognition, was published last year. And researchers from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., are seeing similarly beneficial effects on memory in preliminary results from their experiments.

PNNL’s Janet Jansson provided an advance look at her team’s yet-to-be-published findings here today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Naveen Jain’s Viome offers a gut check

Naveen Jain
Viome CEO Naveen Jain shows how a stool sample would be placed into a kit for an analysis of gut microbes. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

BELLEVUE, Wash. – Seattle-area entrepreneur Naveen Jain is ramping up Viome, a wellness monitoring service that’s the first venture brought to life by his BlueDot innovation factory.

Viome blends readings from your blood, urine, saliva and stool samples to develop a profile of your biochemistry, as well as the microbes in your digestive system, and then feeds that profile into a smartphone app that spits out personalized recommendations for diet and lifestyle.

That basic model is the foundation for a widening array of wellness ventures, including Seattle-based Arivale as well as Ubiome in San Francisco, DayTwo in Israel and at least half a dozen others. But Viome CEO Jain and his fellow executives are banking on a technology they’re licensing from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico to analyze the human gut microbiome in unmatched detail.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Gates commits $100M to microbiome project

Image: Microbes
Humans are hosts to a diverse microbiome, including these organisms. Clockwise from top left are Streptococcus (Credit: Tom Schmidt); a microbial biofilm of mixed species, from human body (Credit: A. Earl, Broad Institute/MIT); Bacillus (Credit: Tom Schmidt); and Malassezia lopophilis (Credit: J.H. Carr, CDC). Image credit: Jonathan Bailey / NHGRI.

The White House has unveiled more than half a billion dollars’ worth of public and private programs aimed at unraveling the mysteries of microbes – and Seattle’s Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be contributing more than $100 million to that National Microbiome Initiative over the next four years.

The initiative, announced May 13, will take advantage of the key role that microbial communities, also known as microbiomes, play in our gut as well as in agriculture and global ecosystems. Research into the workings on microbiomes could lead to new treatments for diseases, better crops and a healthier environment. Microbial transplants are already being used to treat conditions such as C. difficile, a debilitating bowel disease.

“Clearly, applications are critical. Ultimately the promise of the microbiome has to be realized,” microbiologist Jo Handelsman, associate director for science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said at the White House kickoff briefing.

U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, a New York Democrat who is also a trained microbiologist, said the scientific payoff “is going to be like splitting the atom, I think, when you get all this done.”

Get the full story on GeekWire.