Humans create small molecules inside the GI tract to help regulate the composition of gut microbes and to protect against intestinal diseases. The researchers believe the findings of the study reveal a host defense mechanism and show that microRNAs can be used to regulate the microbiome of individuals.

The researchers found microRNAs produced by intestinal cells in both mice and humans regulate the activity of bacterial genes. The team transplanted microRNAs from healthy mice to microRNA­ deficient mice, and successfully restored the normal composition of gut microbes while also protecting against colon damage.

The researchers hope to apply their findings to human patients.

Original research paper published in Cell Host & Microbe on January 13, 2015.

Names and affiliations of selected author

Howard L. Weiner, Department of Neurology, Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.