New method detects gut microbes that activate immune cells

Aug. 19, 2022
Identifying which microbes in the gut contribute to inflammatory diseases can lead to more personalized therapies.

Cedars-Sinai investigators have developed a method to help identify which human gut microbes are most likely to contribute to a slew of inflammatory diseases like obesity, liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer and some neurological diseases.

The technique, described in the peer-reviewed journal Science Translational Medicine, uses a protein found in blood that detects the gut microbes that have crossed the gut barrier and activated immune cells throughout the body—a development that could lead to new treatments that target inflammatory gut microbes.

While the gut microbiome is thought to play an important role in diseases that are driven by immune over-activation, many of these diseases involve organs beyond the gut. Currently, there are limited tools to identify which gut microbes have crossed the gut barrier and activated immune cells outside of the gastrointestinal tract.

To devise a more accurate method, investigators at Cedars-Sinai and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases used human serum, the fluid found in blood that contains all the antibodies of an individual, to quantify immune responses against gut microbes. 

Using human serum allows researchers to understand the total body immune responses to all gut microbes, which helps give researchers a better understanding whether specific microbes are eliciting immune activation in these diseases.

The team used high throughput sequencing to calculate an IgG score, which is used to measure how much antibody there is against each gut microbe.

When applying this technique to inflammatory bowel disease, researchers found several bacteria that were targeted by the immune system when compared to healthy controls. This included several gut bacteria in the Collinsella, Bifidobacterium, Lachnospiraceae and Ruminococcaceae.

Cedars-Sinai release