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Human Gut Microbes Represent a Wealth of New Drugs

What's the Latest Development?

A presently untapped resource of medical innovation is coming into clearer view thanks to new DNA analyses that look closely at microbial presence in the human gut. As a result of recent technological developments, scientists now believe that microbial interactions directly influence the development of medical conditions like diabetes, obesity, inflammation, and gastrointestinal disease. "The microbes that live with us have a lot of impact on our health, positive as well as negative," says Gary Andersen, a microbiologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

What's the Big Idea?

The importance of microbial chemical interactions has gone virtually unnoticed, until recently, because most of these organisms can't grow in pure cultures of a single species, and are therefore difficult to cultivate in laboratory settings. But now, companies like Second Genome, run by Mr. Andersen, believe that by studying interactions between microbes and our bodies' own gastro-chemistry, new treatments could be developed. The company is currently investigating the microbiome's effect on inflammatory and metabolic disorders, including type 2 diabetes.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

Read it at MIT Technology Review

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