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  1. Mairi H McLean, Education editor

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Dietary emulsifiers: impact on host microbiota and metabolic dysregulation

▸ Chassaing B, Koren O, Goodrich JK, et al. Dietary emulsifiers impact the mouse gut microbiota promoting colitis and metabolic syndrome. Nature 2015;519:92–6.

There has been a steady rise in our consumption of food additives over the past 50 years, with many of these constituents having limited effective testing for their impact on human health. It has been suggested that emulsifiers, detergent-like molecules, added to processed foods, can promote increased bacterial translocation across epithelia and be a plausible cause for the increase in IBD cases seen over a similar time period. This concept was tested by Chassaing et al. They reported that relatively low levels of two commonly used dietary emulsifiers, carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80, induced low-grade inflammation and metabolic dysfunction in wild-type mice, while promoting robust colitis in colitis susceptible interleukin (IL)-10 knockout mice. Emulsifier-induced metabolic syndrome was associated with reduced mucus thickness, microbial encroachment, dramatically altered microbial composition and increased proinflammatory potential. The authors used a series of germ-free mice and faecal transplant studies to confirm that changes in the microbiota were driving adiposity and associated metabolic effects. They demonstrated that emulsifiers altered faecal levels of short-chain fatty acids including butyrate as well as affecting bile acids levels. The observations suggest that dietary emulsifiers can drive perturbations in the gut microbiota resulting in low-grade inflammation and promoting altered host metabolic function. This could contribute to a variety of diseases including IBD and metabolic syndrome. The data do not dispute the notion that excess caloric consumption also contributes to metabolic dysregulation, but rather suggests that dietary emulsifiers and other food additives are also involved in disease pathogenesis.

Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat mutations in organoid culture: a new method in colorectal cancer research

▸ Matano M, Date S, Shimokawa M, et al. Modelling colorectal cancer using CRISPR-Cas9-mediated engineering of human intestinal organoids. Nat Med 2015;21:256–62.

The development of organoid technology where intestinal ‘miniguts’ can …

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