Scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli, one of the many bacteria in our gut. Bacteria like … [+] this in the human gut can protect us against many diseases, and a new study shows bacteria can protect us against radiation damage.
Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH
The host of symbiotic microbes in our gut has been in the news lately. The trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi that live in our gut, collectively known as our microbiome, turn out to be critical to our overall health.
Without this gut flora, we would die.
Poor diet, overuse of antibiotics, and some diseases can kill off some of the good guys and bring up some of the bad guys, hurting our immune system and making us susceptible to diabetes, certain cancers, and even brain dysfunction.
So it was really amazing to see that this gut microbiome can also protect us from radiation.
Researchers at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, along with researchers at Duke, Sloan Kettering and Cornell, have shown that mice exposed to lethal doses of total body radiation (8.0 – 9.2 Gy) were protected from radiation damage if they had specific types of bacteria in their gut.
High levels of radiation (>0.2 Gy) can cause damage to tissues that may not be repaired quickly enough, resulting in damage or death. In this study, the bacteria mitigated radiation exposure and enhanced the recovery of blood cell production as well as repair of the gastrointestinal tract, indicating a crucial role for the gut microbiota as a master regulator of host defense against radiation, capable of protecting both the hematopoietic and gastrointestinal systems.…