Podcast: Obesity, cancer and gut bacteria—how the microbiome impacts your health


In the latest episode of Genetics Unzipped, geneticist Kat Arney investigates the trillions of bacteria that live inside our guts and make up what’s known as the microbiome. Rather than just a bunch of useless bugs, the microbiome is now believed to play a role in virtually every aspect of health and disease. But how do they do that?

To find out, Arney speaks with Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, author of The Diet Myth and scientific co-founder of the precision nutrition company ZOE, whose PREDICT research study is investigating how the microbiome and other factors affect individual responses to food. 

Creating a gut microbiome profile involves collecting a stool sample, extracting the DNA from all the bacteria and running it through a DNA sequencer, then sifting through all the data to try and figure out which bacterial species are present. 

This approach is known as metagenomics, and researchers are now using it to study bacterial communities in all sorts of places, from every nook and cranny of the human body to soil and the world’s oceans. The results of this research are shedding light on human health and disease – including antimicrobial resistance – and revealing new ideas for biotechnology applications. But deciphering all this genetic data isn’t an easy task, according to Rob Finn, a team leader at the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge, UK.

Kat also talks to Hilary Browne, a researcher at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK, about the challenges of growing and studying gut bacteria in the lab. 

Full transcript, credits and show notes are available here.

Related article:  How AI 'learned' to predict a person's age by analyzing gut bacteria

Genetics Unzipped is presented by award-winning science communicator and biologist Kat Arney and produced by First Create the Media for the UK Genetics Society. Follow Kat on Twitter @Kat_Arney and Genetics Unzipped @geneticsunzip

Listen to Genetics Unzipped on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) Google Play, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts

Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
can you boost your immune system to prevent coronavirus spread x

Video: How to boost your immune system to guard against COVID and other illnesses

Scientists have recently developed ways to measure your immune age. Fortunately, it turns out your immune age can go down ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
gmo corn field x

Do GMO Bt (insect-resistant) crops pose a threat to human health or the environment?

Bt is a bacterium found organically in the soil. It is extremely effective in repelling or killing target insects but ...

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend