What keeps your microbiome happy?

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The microbes in your gut depend on you to feed them well. The microbiota have been linked to weight, gut health, allergies and even mood. Studies have shown that when the host (you) fails to supply the hungry hordes of beneficial microbes with what they want, the populations can change, and can even start to threaten the gut’s thin lining. But we have been unable to see exactly whether — and how — these shifts were happening.

Now a team at Stanford University has created an elegant method of peering inside the gut—at cell-level resolution — to see what is going on. The research is in the October issue of Cell Host & Microbe.

Most of our understanding about gut microbes — and any impact diet has on them — has come from poop. Researchers can run a quick genetic scan on a smudge of a fecal sample, assessing which microbes are there, and in what abundances. But from this mixed-up pile, there is no way to know where in the gut the microbes are living — or how they are interacting with one another or with you. “Mapping the spatial organization of this microbial community is a fundamental aspect of understanding its biology,” says Justin Sonnenburg, a microbiologist at Stanford and coauthor of the new paper. “Without this information, we will struggle to make sense of how these microbes are contributing to our health or why interactions go awry and cause disease.”

Read full, original post: What does your gut microbiome look like?

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