"The research shows how the food we eat can directly change the good bacteria in our intestines to bad bacteria and so influence our health," said Thomas Perlot, the first author of the study. “Our results might also explain nutritional effects that have been known for centuries and provide a molecular link between malnutrition and the bacteria living in our intestines. This discovery could be used in the future to treat patients with a simple regulated diet or by taking tryptophan as a food supplement. And there is hardly any risk of side effects from artificially increasing an amino acid found in the normal diet."
Josef Penninger, the lead author, says “I have studied ACE2 for more than 10 years and was completely stunned by this novel link between ACE2 and amino acid balance in the gut. Biology continues to surprise me. Up to a billion people in the world are malnourished, especially the poor and disadvantaged. In Austria alone, around 80,000 people suffer from a chronic inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. I hope that our findings have opened a door to a better molecular understanding how malnutrition affects human health. Whether simple tryptophan diets can indeed cure the effects of malnutrition in humans now needs to be carefully tested in clinical trials."
The paper "ACE2 links amino acid malnutrition to microbial ecology and intestinal inflammation" will be published on July 26 in "Nature."
The Institute for Molecular Biotechnology (IMBA) combines fundamental and applied research in the field of biomedicine. Interdisciplinary research groups address functional genetic questions, particularly those related to the origin of disease. IMBA is a subsidiary of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the leading organization promoting non-university academic basic research in Austria.