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Fatty Acid Produced By Gut Bacteria Help in Boosting Immune System

Update Date: Nov 14, 2013 09:36 AM EST

A by-product of the digestion of dietary fiber by gut microbes boosts the immune system, a new study finds.

The research, conducted at RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences in Japan, aims at finding the role of gut bacteria on the maturation of the immune system. The research also hints at using butyrate as a therapy for inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease. Butyrate is the by-product formed out of the digestion of dietary fiber by gut microbes.

In the research it was found that butyrate acts as an epigenetic switch that boosts the immune system by inducing the production of regulatory T cells in the gut.

Studies in the past have also confirmed that patients suffering form inflammatory bowel disease had scarcity of butyrate-producing bacteria. This means they also had lower levels of butyrate in their gut.

The study is first which provides a molecular basis for the role of butyrate on the production of regulatory T lymphocytes.

The study led by Dr Hiroshi Ohno from RIKEN in collaboration with the University of Tokyo and Keio University, studied the molecular mechanisms of microbes and their way of augmentation int the number of regulatory T cells. These T cells are also known as Treg cells which are present in the colon of mice.

“Regulatory T cells are important for the containment of excessive inflammatory responses as well as autoimmune disorders. Therefore these findings could be applicable for the prevention and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), allergy and autoimmune disease,” said Dr Hiroshi Ohno in the press release.

“Butyrate is natural and safe as a therapy and in addition to that it is cheap, which could reduce costs for both patients and society,” Dr Ohno added.

The findings of the study is published in the journal Nature.

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