Science  29 Mar 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6127, pp. 1506

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  1. Gut Microbes Tied to Surgical Weight Loss

    Gastric bypass surgery is an extreme remedy for obesity, but how it helps people lose weight isn't clear. After the operation, patients can't take in or absorb as many calories—but studies suggest that other things are at play, too. Work published this week in Science Translational Medicine now points to another possible driver: the altered balance of microbes in the gut after surgery, which can cause weight loss in animals.

    The team, led by gastroenterologist Lee Kaplan and microbiologist Peter Turnbaugh of Harvard University, found that within a week of surgery, rodents showed microbial shifts in their feces similar to humans, bringing the balance closer to those of lean individuals. The group then transplanted samples from the gastrointestinal systems of mice who had and had not had gastric bypass surgery into animals raised in a germ-free environment. The treated mice lost about 5% of their body weight in 2 weeks. How gastric bypass surgery alters microbial colonies in the gut is "essentially an open question at this point," says Turnbaugh, who hopes to determine whether the findings will also translate to humans.