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Study: Gut bacteria influences the immune system

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    Here's a question we don't ask ourselves too frequently: What's in your gut? The answer is a surprise to many. Your intestines play host to over 100 trillion bacteria – as well as some partially digested food!

    We like to think of ourselves as individuals; as single independent organisms going about our business. But scientists have known for some time that we carry around trillions of microorganisms.

    To put that in context, the number of bacteria in the gut is over ten times greater than the total number of human cells in the body!

    Some of these microorganisms perform useful tasks – like helping digestion – while others appear to have very little interaction with their human hosts. Indeed, it was once thought that almost all species of gut bacteria simply coexist with humans without having much effect one way or another.

    But, lately, it seems the more research that we do, the more we learn about importance of our microbial guests to our health.

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

    This discovery, published in the journal Science, provides a deeper understanding of how bacteria in the intestines interact with the host immune system in health and disease.

    The joint Harvard-UCB project team is currently building the critical components to translate this discovery into a therapeutic programme. The research alliance between Harvard and UCB is an important part of our ‘super network’ of partners and is a great example of industry-academia co-creation.

    It generates new knowledge and leverages external scientific advances, resources and expertise that complement our unique internal capabilities with the goal to create value for patients.

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