Monitoring gut microbiota could play a useful part in determining whether treatments for type 1 diabetes are successful.
Gut microbiota is the community of many different types of bacteria that live in the gut. The bacteria that live in our gut are very important and changes in the diversity of the bacteria is known to be a predictor of health.
The Australian team, from the University of Queensland, set out to investigate whether the changes in gut microbiota associated with type 1 diabetes were a result of environmental reasons, genetics or both.
The trial involved studying the gut microbiota of rodents at high genetic risk of type 1 diabetes. Differences in gut bacteria composition were compared to animals who were genetically protected against the condition. Rodents genetically susceptible to type 1 diabetes had reduced populations of, and Clostridiales, Lachnospiraceae and Ruminococcus bacteria.
The researchers found that using immunotherapy on the rodents could restore the gut microbiota that had changed. The immunotherapy involved using drugs to increase the number of regulatory T cells (Tregs) in the immune system to help prevent type 1 diabetes.
Dr Emma Hamilton-Williams, who led the study, said: “This research has shown there is a genetic component to microbiota and the immune response involved in regulating it.
“This means that changes in the microbiota in type 1 diabetes occur before symptoms develop and are not just a side-effect of the disease. Therapies targeting the microbiota could therefore have the potential to help prevent type 1 diabetes in the future.”
The researchers then looked to confirm the findings by reviewing data from 1,392 humans from the TwinUK cohort, a research group made up of around 12,000 twins. The data suggested that abundant populations of Clostridiales, Lachnospiraceae and Ruminococcus bacteria were associated with low risk of type 1 diabetes. However, the researchers noted that a larger dataset would be needed to confirm this with statistical significance.
The researchers concluded that variations in genetic risk factors for type 1 diabetes influenced the populations of gut bacteria. Furthermore, that their research suggests that monitoring gut microbiota could play a part in determining response to immunotherapy.
The findings have been published in the Microbiome journal.

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