New Article Published in British Journal of Pharmacology Reviews How the Human Gut Microbiome Processes Food and Medicine

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Literature review written by Elisabeth Bik, PhD, microbiome research pioneer, former Stanford University scientist and current science editor at uBiome.

Our gut microbes can do so many chemical conversions that our own bodies cannot, and this was a great opportunity to give an overview of all these reactions.

A new article published online in the peer-reviewed British Journal of Pharmacology summarizes new insights into how food and medications are metabolized by the gut microbiome, specifically the distal gut or large intestine, and how that could impact overall health. The article was published by researchers from uBiome, the leader in microbial genomics.

The human gut microbiome is the largest and most dense natural microbial ecosystem known to date. The microbial ecosystem in the human distal gut plays an important role in our physiology and health. Since the gut microbiome is unique to each individual, the chemical reactions that take place during digestion differ, which is why individuals respond differently to food and medicines.

“I was delighted to write this paper for an upcoming themed issue about the human microbiome for the British Journal of Pharmacology,” said Elisabeth Bik, PhD, science editor at uBiome. “Our gut microbes can do so many chemical conversions that our own bodies cannot, and this was a great opportunity to give an overview of all these reactions.”

uBiome researchers summarized some key findings from the literature as follows:

Bacteria and other microbes living in the distal gut can digest fibers that human enzymes in the small intestine cannot break down. After digesting these fibers, the bacteria will use the smaller pieces to make short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and other molecules that can serve as signal molecules, or fuel, for intestinal cells.

Intestinal bacteria not only help us digest our food, but can also activate or inactivate some medications we take. The composition of our gut microbiome therefore can determine how drugs might work in one patient compared to another.

Gut microbial species do not act by themselves. They interact with each other by either competing for the same resources or by collaborating through metabolic cross-feeding, For example, some bacteria can break down fibers, while other bacterial species can absorb the resulting smaller pieces (or waste) as fuel to build new molecules.

“While we have made tremendous strides in understanding microbial biotransformations in the human gut, there are many that are still poorly understood or remain to be characterized,” says Zachary Apte, PhD, senior author of the article and co-founder and CTO at uBiome. “However, as we continue to rapidly gather metagenomic data from human gut samples, the potential to yield insights which can have a critical impact on overall human health is very high.”

The full article can be accessed here for review free of charge.

About uBiome

Founded in 2012, uBiome is the world’s leading microbial genomics company with a mission to explore important research questions about the microbiome and develop reliable, accurate products and services, focused on the microbiome. uBiome is funded by Y Combinator, Andreessen Horowitz, 8VC and other leading investors. uBiome’s mission is to transform the science of the microbiome into useful products and services that improve people’s lives.

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