Assessing the Human Gut Microbiota in Metabolic Diseases

  1. Fredrik Bäckhed2,3
  1. 1Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden
  2. 2The Wallenberg Laboratory and Sahlgrenska Center for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research, Department of Molecular and Clinical Medicine, Institute of Medicine, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden
  3. 3Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, Section for Metabolic Receptology and Enteroendocrinology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
  1. Corresponding author: Fredrik Bäckhed, fredrik.backhed{at}wlab.gu.se.

Abstract

Recent findings have demonstrated that the gut microbiome complements our human genome with at least 100-fold more genes. In contrast to our Homo sapiens–derived genes, the microbiome is much more plastic, and its composition changes with age and diet, among other factors. An altered gut microbiota has been associated with several diseases, including obesity and diabetes, but the mechanisms involved remain elusive. Here we discuss factors that affect the gut microbiome, how the gut microbiome may contribute to metabolic diseases, and how to study the gut microbiome. Next-generation sequencing and development of software packages have led to the development of large-scale sequencing efforts to catalog the human microbiome. Furthermore, the use of genetically engineered gnotobiotic mouse models may increase our understanding of mechanisms by which the gut microbiome modulates host metabolism. A combination of classical microbiology, sequencing, and animal experiments may provide further insights into how the gut microbiota affect host metabolism and physiology.

  • Received May 28, 2013.
  • Accepted July 8, 2013.

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