Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Sick from your stomach: Bacterial changes may trigger diseases like rheumatoid arthritis

The billions of bugs in our guts have a newfound role: regulating the immune system and related autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, according to researchers at Mayo Clinic and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Larger-than-normal populations of specific gut bacteria may trigger the development of diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and possibly fuel disease progression in people genetically predisposed to this crippling and confounding condition, say the researchers, who are participating in the Mayo Illinois Alliance for Technology Based Healthcare.

The study is published in the April 2012 issue of PloS ONE.

"A lot of people suspected that gut flora played a role in rheumatoid arthritis, but no one had been able to prove it because they couldn't say which came first — the bacteria or the genes," says senior author Veena Taneja, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic immunologist. "Using genomic sequencing technologies, we have been able to show the gut microbiome may be used as a biomarker for predisposition."

The roughly 10 trillion cells that make up the human body have neighbors: mostly bacteria that often help, training the immune system and aiding in digestion, for example. The bacteria in the intestines, in addition to a relatively small number of other microorganisms (the gut microbiome), outnumber human cells 10-to-1.

Researchers found that hormones and changes related to aging may further modulate the gut immune system and exacerbate inflammatory conditions in genetically susceptible individuals.

Nearly 1 percent of the world's population has rheumatoid arthritis, a disease in which the immune system attacks tissues, inflaming joints and sometimes leading to deadly complications such as heart disease. Other diseases with suspected gut bacterial ties include type I diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

Researchers with the Mayo Illinois Alliance for Technology Based Healthcare say that identifying new biomarkers in intestinal microbial populations and maintaining a balance in gut bacteria could help physicians stop rheumatoid arthritis before it starts.

"This study is an important advance in our understanding of the immune system disturbances associated with rheumatoid arthritis. While we do not yet know what the causes of this disease are, this study provides important insights into the immune system and its relationship to bacteria of the gut, and how these factors may affect people with genetic susceptibilities to disease," says Eric Matteson, M.D., chairman of rheumatology at Mayo Clinic, who was not a study author.

Dr. Taneja and her team genetically engineered mice with the human gene HLA-DRB1*0401, a strong indicator of predisposition to rheumatoid arthritis. A set of control mice were engineered with a different variant of the DRB1 gene, known to promote resistance to rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers used these mice to compare their immune responses to different bacteria and the effect on rheumatoid arthritis.

"The gut is the largest immune organ in the body," says co-author Bryan White, Ph.D., director of the University of Illinois' Microbiome Program in the Division of Biomedical Sciences and a member of the Institute for Genomic Biology. "Because it's presented with multiple insults daily through the introduction of new bacteria, food sources and foreign antigens, the gut is continually teasing out what's good and bad."

The gut has several ways to do this, including the mucosal barrier that prevents organisms — even commensal or "good" bacteria — from crossing the lumen of the gut into the human body. However, when commensal bacteria breach this barrier, they can trigger autoimmune responses. The body recognizes them as out of place, and in some way this triggers the body to attack itself, he says.

These mice mimic human gender trends in rheumatoid arthritis, in that females were about three times as likely to generate autoimmune responses and contract the disease. Researchers believe these "humanized" mice could shed light on why women and other demographic groups are more vulnerable to autoimmune disorders and help guide development of new future therapies.

"The next step for us is to show if bugs in the gut can be manipulated to change the course of disease," Dr. Taneja says.

The study was funded by the Mayo-Illinois Alliance for Technology Based Healthcare and a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Co-authors include Andres Gomez; Carl Yeoman, Ph.D.; and Margret Berg Miller, Ph.D., all of University of Illinois; David Luckey; Eric Marietta, Ph.D.; and Joseph Murray, M.D., all of Mayo Clinic.

About Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit worldwide leader in medical care, research and education for people from all walks of life. For more information, visit and

Sam Smith | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg

nachricht New potential cancer treatment using microwaves to target deep tumors
12.10.2016 | University of Texas at Arlington

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>