Targeting the Gut to Improve Health
In the past, digestive disorders that could not be well-managed with medication required conventional open surgery performed through large incisions. Today, many of these illnesses can be treated using minimally invasive approaches that make small incisions and, in many cases, no external incisions at all. Some of these procedures will allow you to go home the same day and avoid complications, infections, and higher costs. Our doctors also use minimally invasive surgery to free patients from their reliance on medications and restore comfort and quality of life.
What have they achieved?
Through a series of research projects, Weill Cornell and Columbia University scientists were able to show for the first time that:
- There is a direct link between microbes in the gut and glucose levels through related processes occurring in the liver, a finding with implications for people living with diabetes and those affected by obesity.
- Depleting the microbiome alters the connections between brain cells, impairing the ability to accurately gauge external threats — a finding with implications for mental health.
- Healthy bacteria in the gut interact with immune cells to help clear harmful bacteria from the body, an interaction observed through the development of a technique called 3-D electron tomography.
- A change from a low-fat to a high-fat diet resulted in large-scale changes to entire neighborhoods of the microbiome, a finding generated using a new technique scientists designed.
- Gene editing using a highly efficient technique called CRISPR could be used to alter the microbiome, which could lead to genetic engineering of the gut microbiome to promote health or treat disease.
How you might benefit
The researchers' studies were not conducted in people, but rather in laboratory models. However, by learning to alter the microbiome and eventually assessing these approaches in patients, it is possible the findings of their investigations could someday be applied to:
- help people with diabetes by regulating their blood sugar
- manage anxiety, depression, and mood disorders
- treat heart disease
- improve the lives of people with autoimmune diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, and multiple sclerosis