"Something about the surgery changes the way this whole process is regulated," Kaplan says. He suspects microbial modifications linked to the bypass surgery, if they apply to humans, could help explain shifts in metabolism that doctors have long observed. The experiments were partially funded by Ethicon, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, and Liou, Turnbaugh, and Kaplan have filed a patent application related to the research.
"It's now worth figuring out" how and why certain bacteria could lead to weight loss, Cummings says. Another important question, Turnbaugh says, is whether the transplants will have the same effect in animals who weren't raised in a sterile environment and who already have their own gut microbiome. These animals would more closely mimic people undergoing gastric bypass surgery. It's something he, Kaplan, and their colleagues are keen to learn more about.
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