A National Health Research Institutes team has discovered that under certain conditions, controlling the intestinal microorganisms of mice can increase their energy consumption and resistance to diet-induced obesity — a finding that could help humans avoid obesity.
The balance of intestinal microorganisms is associated with the risk of developing obesity, cancer and metabolic, autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases, said Kao Cheng-yuan (高承源), an assistant investigator at the agency’s Immunology Research Center who has led the research team for four years.
The researchers discovered that controlling the dual specificity phosphatase 6 (DUSP6) gene — which is present in mice, humans and other animals — can influence intestinal metabolism and permeability, team member Ruan Jhen-wei (阮振維) said, adding that by suppressing the gene, a balance of intestinal microorganisms can be maintained, and an inflammatory response associated with the development of obesity can be suppressed.
The team found that when intestinal microorganisms taken from the feces of DUSP6-deficient mice were introduced into mice with the gene on a high-fat diet, there was a 15 percent increase in their energy consumption, while they also gained 20 percent more weight, Kao said.
The association between DUSP6 and intestinal microorganisms could be developed into treatment or preventive measures for obesity and metabolic diseases, Kao said, adding that the team has applied for a temporary US patent.
The researchers also developed a key method to cultivate the obesity-suppressing intestinal microorganisms and are screening bacterial strains for further experiments, he said, adding that they expect to complete verification of the results within a couple of years and hope to develop probiotics that could help prevent obesity in humans in two or three years.
People can change their intestinal microbiotic environment through changes of diet and daily habits, as a healthy diet and regular exercise can help to prevent obesity and aid weight loss, Ruan said, adding that dietary supplements might not be necessary for everyone, but could be helpful to those with morbid obesity.
The team’s research was published in the scientific journal Nature Microbiology last month.
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