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Bile acids may help regulate inflammation

Bile acids may help regulate inflammation

A new study shows that regulating inflammation is just one of the functions of bile acid.

Bile acids may help regulate inflammation

Made by the liver, bile acids have a range of functions. As well as helping to break down fats, they also help to metabolise cholesterol, emulsify vitamins to enable their absorption and additionally function as hormones that bind to nuclear receptors. They too are critical for digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins in the small intestine. Many waste products, including bilirubin, are eliminated from the body by secretion into bile and elimination in feces.

A recent study by the Blavatnik Institute at HMS, first published in Nature, found that bile acids are converted from fat emulsifiers to immune-regulatory molecules by gut bacteria. Once modified they activate two classes of immune cells: anti-inflammatory regulatory T cells (Tregs) and proinflammatory effector helper T cells, specifically Th17.

These mice studies indicate that bile acids promote the differentiation and activity of several types of T cells associated with the pathologies seen in autoimmune conditions of the gut, including Crohn’s Disease. The scientists suggest that it could form the basis for a human therapeutic to combat these conditions.

“Our findings identify an important regulatory mechanism in gut immunity, showing that microbes in our intestines can modify bile acids and turn them into regulators of inflammation,” said Jun Huh, assistant professor of immunology in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS. Bile supplements are available for people with a deficiency. It’s also important to stay well-hydrated as about 85 percent of bile is made up of water.

Of the tests, Denis Kasper, professor of immunology in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS said: “Our results demonstrate an elegant three-way interaction between gut microbes, bile acids and the immune system. Importantly, our work suggests it is plausible to think of harnessing certain gut bacteria as a way to modulate disease risk.”

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