Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Overselling the microbiome story of the week: aging in fruit flies vs humans

Well, I like fruit flies too.  But the claims in this story are quite a jump: Gut bacteria health may be the key to living longer, disease-free lives, U.S. fruit fly study reveals | National Post.

Some choice quotes:
Researchers have more than just a gut feeling they’ve discovered one of the keys to living a longer, healthier life, especially as we age.
Emphasis on we by me.  Jumps right in there and basically says this study is about people even though it is not.
But this research goes further, study authors said, putting gut bacteria shifts “into a hierarchical, causal relationship and highlights the points where we can intervene.”
Where we can intervene in all the premature aging that happens in the fruit flies in our houses.
“If we can understand how aging affects our commensal population (the bacteria that live inside us) — first in the fly and then in humans — our data suggest we should be able to impact health span and life span quite strongly,” Jasper said. “Because it is the management of the commensal population that is critical to the health of the organism.”
How does Jasper go from their fruit fly study to "we should be able to impact health span and life span quite strongly."???????  Again, I love fruit flies.  And I love their microbiome.  I think that Drosophila is a great model system for studying animal microbiomes.  I have even coauthored a few papers on Drosophila and the microbes that live in and on it.  Examples include
But let's not get ahead of ourselves in the implications of this work for humans.

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