The year in microbiomes | Science News

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The year in microbiomes

This year, scientists pegged microbes as important players in several aspects of human health

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1:00pm, December 22, 2014
micrograph of cells in mouse colon

NOT SO SWEET  In mouse colons, sugar-eating gut microbes encourage mutations in DNA (blue), which elevate cancer-related proteins (green). The result may explain carb-rich diets’ link to colon cancer — one of several findings this year linking the microbiome to human health.

Scientists have long known that people are cozy homes for bacteria — but figuring out the myriad roles of bacteria in the body is still a work in progress. This year, scientists pegged microbes as important players in several aspects of human health, including obesity and cancer. Highlights from 2014 include:

1. Obesity

Blasting away babies’ gut bacteria could boost weight gain later in life. Infant mice dosed with antibiotics chunked out as adults; researchers blame the bulge on the mice’s microbial makeup, which differed from that of drug-free mice (SN: 9/20/14, p. 12).

2. Jet lag

Messing with gut microbes’ schedules may make people fat. After crossing a few time zones, travelers housed more bacteria linked to obesity than they did before the trip. In mice, jet-lagged gut microbes

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