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Exploring the "treasure trove" of gut bacteria

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    UCB and Harvard scientists have collaborated on new research describing how dozens of gut bacteria influence the immune system.

    The paper, published in Cell, provides valuable insights that could eventually help to identify new therapeutics. Entitled ‘Mining the Human Gut Microbiota for Immunomodulatory Organisms’, the study is the fruit of UCB and Harvard’s long-standing partnership in this exciting field.

    The authors describe the gut as a “treasure trove” of bacteria, some of which influence the immune system. Of course, there are hundreds of species of bacteria living in the digestive system so it will take time – and collaboration – to understand the role that each kind of bacteria plays.

    The new UCB/Harvard study looked at how the immune systems of mice responded to 53 individual bacterial species. It found that most of the bacteria tested play a role in the immune response. The authors say the research provides a foundation for further investigation of gut microbiota.

    Collaboration and partnership
    UCB and Harvard have been working together for five years to explore the role of human gut bacteria. With around 1 trillion bacteria living in our intestines, scientists have known for some time that this ‘microbiome’ is an influential actor in the complex system that regulates the immune system.

    Our shared hope from the outset has been to uncover new ways of strengthening the immune system or of preventing things from going wrong.

    In 2015, the Harvard-UCB 'microbiome' team identified bacteria that can change the function of specific immune suppressor cells, pointing the way towards new therapies for people living with immunological diseases.

    That discovery, published in the journal Science, provided a deeper understanding of how bacteria in the intestines interact with the host immune system in health and disease. The newest paper builds on this knowledge and will become the basis for future insights.

    The publication of this work in top journals shows our commitment to partnering with the best scientists in the world to solve the most intriguing scientific puzzles of our time.
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