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November 1, 2012 | By Rosie Mestel, Los Angeles Times
Inflammatory bowel disease -- a range of conditions including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis -- afflicts an estimated 1.4 million Americans.  Now some scientists in France have come up with a  novel potential therapy: an enzyme that calms down the gut delivered via a genetically engineered bacterium. The approach -- tested so far only on mice and pieces of inflamed human gut tissue in the lab -- was reported in a paper in this week's Science Translational Medicine . Crohn's and ulcerative colitis, which range in severity and can be chronic or recurring, develop when parts of the body's immune system turn traitor  and -- for poorly understood reasons -- start attacking the gut.  Symptoms include diarrhea, cramping, weight loss, ulcers and intestinal scarring.
September 26, 2012 | By Rosie Mestel
There's a lot of talk these days about the role of gut bacteria in disease and health. The latest report in that area: a study in Nature that finds differences between the bacteria growing in the guts of people who have diabetes and those who don't. The Chinese and European authors of the study used DNA analysis to figure out the bacterial populations inside 345 Chinese people. They found that people with diabetes had mild gut disturbances. They had fewer bacteria that make a compound called butyrate, for example.
September 13, 2012 | By Deepi Brar
When you pop a pill in the future, don't expect old-fashioned results. Thanks to new advances in the lab and a deeper understanding of the human body, drugs are becoming highly personalized and precisely targeted. And the hope is they'll also be more effective. A new appreciation of our individual differences could spell the end of one-size-fits-all medicine. Our genes, lifestyles, environmental influences and even the bacteria in our guts work together to make us the people we are. All of these factors - and more - dictate how we respond to pills, tablets and capsules.
September 13, 2012 | Cassandra Willyard
The yards of dank tubing in our midsections form a complex, amazing and absolutely pivotal foundation for human health. And the more that scientists come to appreciate this, the more they anticipate that future medical discoveries will come from the lowly gut. The gut hosts a microbial nation that is far from a neutral observer. Over the last couple of decades, this human microbiome has been implicated in a laundry list of diseases: irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, allergies, diabetes, obesity and even mood disorders.
September 10, 2012 | By Karin Klein
I've never met anyone who buys organic food to get more vitamins and minerals, so it's unclear why the public has been treated to a series of studies -- most recently a meta-review out of Stanford University -- telling us that for the most part organics don't have more vitamins and minerals. As a Times editorial pointed out last week, consumers buy organic to avoid ingesting common agricultural chemicals and to prevent those chemicals from harming the environment. Pesticide levels in organic food were found to be significantly lower.
August 23, 2012 | By Rene Lynch
Aimee Copeland is finally home. The 24-year-old Georgia woman had spent several months in the hospital and then a rehabilitation center after a protracted battle with flesh-eating bacteria. The infection ravaged her body and nearly killed her: Both her hands, her left leg and her right foot were amputated. The nation has been following her fight, in part through a blog created by Aimee's father, Andy. The blog kept family and friends apprised in the early days, when her prognosis was so uncertain.
August 6, 2012 | By Daniel J. Stone
Consider an all-too-common scenario: You're burning up from a high fever after a routine surgical procedure, and an infection specialist is called to help treat your problem. You assume that a short course of antibiotics will quickly turn things around. But the specialist candidly admits: "I'm sorry, I can't treat your infection. You've got a resistant bacteria, a super bug. " Any of us might hear those frightening words sooner than we think. Antibiotics once seemed like a miracle weapon in our fight against microbes that have plagued mankind for millenniums, killing untold numbers of people with wounds and serious infections.
July 26, 2012 | By Rosie Mestel, Los Angeles Times
The psychedelic image above is a super-close-up view of the skin -- and the brightly colored blobs are immune cells. What's it about? Read on. Evidence is mounting that the bacteria that live on our bodies affect our health, for good or ill. It's a hot area of research , much of it centered on the gut -- and no wonder, for this is the spot where the richest bacterial communities are found. The bugs that dwell there seem to help our immune systems develop along the right lines, among other things.
July 21, 2012 | By Jon Bardin, Los Angeles Times
Attempts to control malaria — which kills about 1 million people a year — have traditionally focused on the use of drugs to treat the disease and insecticides to kill mosquitoes. Now some scientists have devised a sneakier strategy: feed mosquitoes a genetically engineered bacterium that will kill the malaria parasite from within. Insecticides have a major flaw, said Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena, a malaria expert at Johns Hopkins University and an author of the new study. "When insecticides are used — say, inside of houses — many of the mosquitoes in the area get killed but some will always survive.
July 13, 2012 | By Rosie Mestel, Los Angeles Times
We are teeming with microscopic life. Scientists recently reported on the billions of bacteria and fungi that grow inside us, finding a lot of diversity from person to person - and from spot to spot on the human body. Those findings were in 242 young adults (ages 18 to 40) in exceptionally good health. Even gum disease was grounds for exclusion, as we noted in a news article at the time. But what about older people? It's known that their bacterial populations are less stable than those of younger people and that the gut flora of one elderly individual can differ greatly from that of another.
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