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.
- © 2013 by the American Diabetes Association.
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