On the hunt for gut microbe troublemakers

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By University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Most people take their digestive system for granted. Few are aware of the link between some of the gut's natural microbial inhabitants and chronic disease.

Scientists have linked obesity, diabetes, some cancers and inflammatory bowel disease to some permanent residents in the gut. The challenge is to discover exactly which of the hundreds of species living in the gastrointestinal tract cause disease and under what conditions. Better understanding the role of gut microbes in disease could lead to new treatment options.

University of Nebraska–Lincoln food microbiologist Andrew Benson is on the hunt. He recently received a $997,732, two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for this research. This project fits into the overarching goal of UNL’s Gut Function Initiative, an interdisciplinary team that Benson helps lead, to understand the role of microorganisms in health.

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