Mouse Gut Microbiota... That's funny

As often happens in science, such as Greatbath with the pacemaker and Fleming with penicillin, great discoveries sometimes find you. As Asimov said "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...' Many scientists are making similar discoveries related to the role of the microbiome in research.

Microbiome Matters

As Jim Vitale observed at the Microbiome Symposium held in Cambridge in September 2015, microbiome matters. From Concanavalin-A induced liver injury and sepsis to diet induced obesity, arthritis and cancer, the microbiome has an impact on research protocols and is important to consider when choosing a model and a vendor. While the chart to the right shows the growth in publications with microbiome or microbiota in the title, a search of Google Scholar for "mice, microbiota" yields over 9000 results for 2015 through December, indicating that research in the microbiome will continue to expand in the future and will play a key role in many research studies.

That's Funnier

Several of the presenters at the symposium had a "That's funny" moment that led to exciting new discoveries. Dr. James Gorham, from the University of Virginia and his research team from his days at Dartmouth were studying Concanavalin-A induced liver injury, when his lab started to get some unexpected results, as some mice responded to the protocol and others seemed to be protected from liver injury. His group discovered that the microbiota is an important determinant of susceptibility or resistance to Con-A induced liver injury. Read the publication title "The microbiota regulates susceptibility to Fas-mediated acute hepatic injury."

Where's Waldo?

Dr. Thomas Griffith from the University of Minnesota Medical School presented on the role of the microbiome in sepsis. Attrition of peripheral CD4 T cells and evidence supporting a peripheral mechanism of CD4 T cell recovery after sepsis led to questions about the possibility of changes within individual Ag-specific CD4 T cell populations. He also observed that "It is likely that some CD4 T cell populations respond directly to Ag present in the proteins expressed by the various commensal bacterial species within the gut," and proposed methods for tracking specific Ag-specific populations of CD4 T cells.

Keeping the germs out of germ-free

Dr. Tamara Goode from the University of Pennsylvania highlighted differences in anatomy and physiology of germ-free mice. She discussed some important differences in development of diseases in germ-free versus conventional mice and provided guidelines for dealing with challenges of working with germ-free mice.

The microbiome research symposium provided a variety of insights into the role of the microbiome in translational research and the specific impact on a variety of studies. In addition, presenters offered insights into challenges of dealing with variations in microbiota and in working with germ-free mice.

Watch the recordings