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Study Reveals Link Between Intestinal Bacteria and Body Weight Regulation

by Daisy

A recent study led by researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center has uncovered a crucial link between intestinal bacteria and the regulation of body weight. Published in Nature Metabolism, the study highlights the role of mysterious cells that secrete hormones in the large intestine, shedding new light on potential treatments for obesity and extreme weight loss.

For decades, scientists have known about enteroendocrine cells (EECs) in the intestines, which produce hormones that regulate digestion and absorption in the small intestine. However, the function of EECs in the large intestine has remained unclear. To investigate this, the researchers used genetic techniques to prevent the development of these cells in the large intestine of lab mice.

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As these mice matured, they exhibited signs of obesity and poor blood sugar control, suggesting that EECs in the colon play a significant role in body weight regulation. Surprisingly, the researchers found that the altered composition of intestinal bacteria in these mice led to an increase in the secretion of glutamate, an amino acid that influences appetite in the brain.

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The study’s lead researcher, Dr. Ezra Burstein, explained that the interaction between colonic EECs and intestinal bacteria regulates the composition of intestinal flora, influencing how much glutamate is secreted and, subsequently, the host animal’s appetite. These findings could pave the way for new treatments for obesity by targeting intestinal glutamate levels, as well as for extreme weight loss disorders like anorexia nervosa by increasing glutamate production.

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While the study provides valuable insights into the complex interplay between gut bacteria and body weight regulation, Dr. Burstein and his team are continuing their research to understand how EECs communicate with intestinal bacteria and how glutamate produced in the intestines signals the brain’s appetite-regulating center.

The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and other organizations. UT Southwestern Medical Center, known for its pioneering biomedical research and exceptional clinical care, is committed to translating scientific discoveries into new clinical treatments to improve patient outcomes.

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