The Scientist Who’s Looking into Your Gut

Bacteria are tiny, one-celled organisms that can invade our bodies.  We call them “germs” and worry about whether they will make us sick.  But bacteria are also critical to our health.  They are used in the manufacture of dairy products and medicines.  In the environment, they help with natural decomposition.  In our bodies, they help us digest our food properly.

Ages ago, humans began consuming various bacteria

during the normal course of eating food.  Many of these microbes formed a symbiotic relationship with us, residing in our guts and helping us to digest food through fermentation.  In fact, gut bacteria are credited with increasing the human life span.

During the past century, however, technological advances such as refrigeration, pasteurization, sanitation and even antibiotics have severely reduced the amount of food-borne microbes we ingest.  This has actually made humans less healthy, leading to increases in inflammatory bowel disease, asthma and food allergies.  People have even begun taking supplemental probiotics to replace the critical microbes we no longer get in our food.

Gut bacteria has become an important field of study.  Researchers such as Dr. Jeffrey Gordon at the Washington University School of Medicine are studying the mutually beneficial relationship between our bodies and the tens of trillions of microbes that inhabit our gastrointestinal tracts.

While the “human gut microbial community” begins at birth and becomes established several years later, this process is disrupted when infants and children don’t get the right food.  Dr. Gordon believes that by studying the microbiome, we can better address malnutrition, the leading cause of childhood death around the world.

Agilent recently awarded Dr. Gordon with an Agilent Thought Leader Award in support of his pioneering research.  The award includes funding and cutting-edge solutions from Agilent.

“With this award, Dr. Gordon’s laboratory will be fully equipped to reliably collect, analyze, identify and quantify essential metabolomics data, turning it into important scientific insights,” says Agilent’s Todd Christian.  “Dr. Gordon’s commitment to improving human health, especially that of malnourished children, is one that Agilent is proud to support.”

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