Certain gut-bacteria found to protect from radiation damage

November 3, 2020

A novel study by US researchers at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center has offered incredible new insights into the relationship between cancer and the gut microbiome – a specific species of gut bacteria has been found to protect an organism from painful, radiation-induced damage.

During an unrelated study, the researchers had noticed a small subset of mice – “elite survivors” – with the unexpected ability to survive a high dose of radiation that would kill most other mice. Close investigation of the animals’ gut microbiome revealed a high abundance of two kinds of bacteria, Lachnospiraceae and Enterococcaceae, which produced two kinds of metabolites, propionate and tryptophan; these metabolites seemed to attenuate radiation-induced DNA damage, as well as reduce damage to the animals’ bone marrow stem cell production.

Looking to validate these findings in humans, the researchers analysed a cohort of leukaemia patients receiving aggressive radiation therapy. Apparently, patients with the highest volume of Lachnospiraceae and Enterococcaceae had the least adverse side effects from the radiation.

Subsequent animal tests also showed how direct treatment with propionate and tryptophan rendered mice somewhat resistant to radiation damage. 

While a clinical trial is being planned to explore whether direct administration of these metabolites to patients undergoing radiation therapy reduces adverse effects,Jenny P.Y. Ting, Professor of Genetics at UNC School of Medicine, is reasonably cautious; she suggests more robust studies are necessary to validate the findings first before doctors and patients begin self-administering probiotics or postbiotics in conjunction with radiotherapy.


Category: Education, Features

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