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A team of researchers from the Cornell University and the King’s College London reveals that they have found a bacterial family which is greatly heritable and is normally found in low-weight people. By studying 416 pairs of British twins, Julia Goodrich and colleagues from Cornell University have identified the gut microbes whose presence is most strongly affected by our genes.
And the leader of the tribe was a mysterious bacterium called Christensenella minuta, the one and only member of a family that was discovered just three years ago. The research, published in Thursday’s edition of the journal Cell, identified a specific family of bacteria that is highly heritable and more common in men and women with low body weight. Furthermore, it was found to help prevent weight gain when transplanted into mice.
Senior author Ruth Ley, an assistant professor in the Cornell University Department of Microbiology, and her colleagues explained that their research could pave the way for personalized probiotic treatments specially designed to help reduce the risk of obesity-related conditions based on a person’s individual genetic make-up.
“Up until now, variation in the abundances of gut microbes has been explained by diet, the environment, lifestyle, and health,” Ley explained. “This is the first study to firmly establish that certain types of gut microbes are heritable – that their variation across a population is in part due to host genotype variation, not just environmental influences.”
Professor Tim Spector, head of the department of twin research and genetic epidemiology at King’s, said that the human microbiome was an exciting new target for dietary changes and treatments that could curb obesity. He said that Christensenella could, in theory, be used as a probiotic in a yoghurt to prevent weight gain, but cautioned studies would be needed to test its effect in humans.
“Seventy per cent of differences between people in how fat they are due to their genes – that’s been known for about 10 years,” he told The Independent. “We know of about 50 genes which are related to obesity but if you add them all together you only account for about one per cent of that difference.