Featured News Gut health key to effective biomedical research

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Fri, 12 Jul 2019

Gut health key to effective biomedical research

Image: Ousa Chea

JCU scientists say biomedical researchers should reconsider their research models to improve the translation of new drugs into humans.

In the Nature Scientific Reports journal, JCU’s Professor Geoffrey Dobson, Dr Hayley Letson, Dr Erik Biros and Dr Jodie Morris from the College of Medicine and Dentistry, report that changing the gut microbiome in animal models can dramatically alter experimental outcomes.

According to Professor Dobson, this finding has huge implications for biomedical research, and its relevance to humans.

“Altering gut microbiota in specific-pathogen free animals alters basic physiology, immune and inflammatory systems, behaviour, and susceptibility to infection and disease,” he said.

Professor Dobson said that within the scientific community, it is becoming widely known that changes in the gut microbiome can influence human health and disease in profound ways.

“These defects include metabolic and inflammatory disorders, obesity, osteoarthritis, allergies, circadian rhythm changes, autoimmune diseases, cancer and mental health disorders,” he said.

Professor Dobson says scientists should reconsider the use of pathogen-free animals in their work if the goal is developing drugs for human use.

“Pathogen-free animals, including rats and mice, were introduced into biomedical research in the early 1960s to minimise disease as a variable in experimental design,” he said

According to Dr. Letson, altering the animal’s gut microbiota dramatically changes the animal’s physiology, and impacts all kinds of research, including military medical research.

“A wounded soldier on the battlefield, or a person going in for surgery does not have a gut microbiome similar to the highly artificial animals born and raised in a sterile ‘bubble’,” she said.

The JCU research team recommend breeding ‘normal’ or conventional animals to better represent the human condition, and improve the chance of successful translation in clinical trials.

“Currently, 95 percent of promising new drugs fail to translate from animal studies to humans,” Professor Dobson said.

“Ultra-clean, specific pathogen-free facilities cost nearly a million dollars to maintain each year and conventional ‘dirty’ facilities would dramatically reduce costs.”

In the future, JCU’s research team will continue to conduct translational research into haemorrhagic shock and traumatic brain injury, which is funded by the US military.

Further Reading:


Professor Geoffrey P. Dobson

Dr. Hayley Letson