An international team of researchers lately discovered that bacteria in the gut can help prevent the development of diabetes.

Specifically, immune-related microbiota helps protect the body against type 1 diabetes, before it is actually developed.

According to the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), "our bodies have ten times the amount of microbes than human cells. This set of bacteria is called microbiota." Bacteria known as pathogens may cause infectious diseases, but can also protect against certain diseases.

Our immune systems have found ways to help detect pathogens and destroy microorganisms harmful to the body. INSERM, along with Paris Descartes University and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), collaborated with researchers from Sweden and China to conduct the experiment that showed how microbiota fights the development of type 1 diabetes, and published their findings on Aug. 4 in the online journal Immunity.

In the experiment, the researchers compared diabetic and healthy mice by looking at the microbial compositions in their gut. Cathelicidins, a type of microbial peptide, was seen to be produced by pancreatic cells, secreting insulin, but only in mice without diabetes. Mice that had diabetes were not seen to produce the peptide.

The researchers then injected cathelicidins to the diabetic mice. Bacteria in the gut produce short-chain fatty acids which in turn generate cathelicidins. When the researchers transferred gut bacteria from the healthy to the diabetic mice, they observed that the gut bacteria began producing short-term fatty acids. Cathelicidins levels then returned to normal in the diabetic mice.

"Injecting cathelicidins inhibits the development of pancreatic inflammation and, as such, suppresses the development of autoimmune disease in these mice," explained Julien Diana, an INSERM researcher who coordinated the study.

The researchers further emphasized that in humans, the production of microbiota works similarly. The results of the study may be applied to therapies for diabetes and other autoimmune diseases.

In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas naturally produces very low levels of insulin. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand also produces little or no insulin, but for the most part is caused by a poor health lifestyle like obesity, being overweight or inactivity.

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