The American Diabetes Association and JDRF co-hosted a gathering of scientists with distinct expertise in type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, immunology, microbiology and technology. The experts agreed upon research priorities centered on understanding how the microorganisms that live in our bodies impact diabetes and obesity.
Overwhelmed? Don’t be. We broke it down in our Q&A below.
What did they actually talk about?
- Human cells. And, human health.Specifically, they explored the microorganisms that inhabit the human body and their genetic makeup, which is known as the “microbiome,” and how these microorganisms are important factors in human health.
Okay, so what about the microbiome?
- Within the first year of life, a community of microbes becomes established in the human gut. The exact composition of the population depends on the environment and diet, but is also influenced by the genes and immune system of the human host. Once it is established, the gut microbiota can be modified or changed by a number of factors including diet, probiotics, antibiotics and other pharmaceutical agents. Interestingly, these changes in the microbiota can also influence the human host’s metabolic function and other aspects of health.
Future findings may have an impact on diabetes. How?
- Right now we know that the composition of the gut microbiome in people with obesity or diabetes is different from those who are lean. The composition also appears to be different between children who develop type 1 diabetes and those who do not. These differences suggest that something about obesity and diabetes may alter the microbiome, or alternatively, that microbiome composition may predispose individuals to these diseases.
- The assembled researchers agreed upon what needs to be further explored to understand the impact of the microbiome on diabetes and obesity. The two organizations’ report was published summarizing the findings from this meeting, and highlighting the types of research that will be required to further advance this field of study. You can read the Association-JDRF joint press release here.
What’s the goal of this research?
- Thanks in part to new technologies that allow large scale genomic sequencing and data analyses, the relationships between the microbiome and disease can now be addressed in a number of different ways. The ultimate goal is to develop and test microbiota-related interventions to prevent and treat diabetes.
With better understanding of the links between the microbiome and human health, we may be able to see a day when we can modify the bacteria living in our guts to prevent and treat diabetes.