LOS ANGELES—Cedars-Sinai researchers reported this month that their examination of fungi in the intestines suggests an important link between these microbes and inflammatory diseases such as ulcerative colitis.
In the new study, published in the June 8 issue of Science, researchers at Cedars-Sinai’s Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute identified and characterized the large community of fungi inhabiting the large intestine in a model of the disease.
The digestive tract is home to a large number of micro-organisms. In fact, with an estimated 100 trillion bacteria residing in the gut, microbes outnumber human cells in the body. Some are necessary to aid in digesting food, producing necessary vitamins and suppressing the growth of harmful microbes. Others are harmful to the body, contributing to illnesses such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and obesity.
Modern DNA-sequencing technology has revolutionized the study of these microbes in the last decade, allowing the role of bacteria in disease to be understood more clearly, as is shown in the Cedars-Science research published in Science.
“It’s long been recognized that fungi must also exist in the gut, but we’re among the first to investigate what types, how many, and whether they’re important in disease," said David Underhill, PhD, associate professor and director of the Graduate Program in Biomedical Science and Translational Medicine, who led the study. “We were truly stunned to see just how common fungi are, identifying more than 100 different types" and seeing linkages to digestive disorders.