Molecules that reduce harmful gut bacteria reverse atherosclerosis in mice

Photograph of normal bacterial flora

Researchers have developed molecules, called peptides, that can remodel the gut microbiome to a healthier state in mice that are genetically susceptible to high cholesterol.

The research team fed the mice a Western-type diet to promote high blood cholesterol and atherosclerosis, as well as shift the gut microbiome. Researchers then sampled the animals’ gut contents and applied two peptides to each sample. These two peptides have been shown to significantly slow the growth of undesirable gut bacteria and to shift the microbiome closer to what is seen in mice fed a healthier diet. One day later, they sequenced the bacterial DNA in the samples to determine how the peptides shifted the gut bacteria.

They found a 36% reduction in blood levels of cholesterol in two weeks and a 40% reduction in atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries of treated mice in ten weeks compared to untreated mice. The proof-of-concept study, published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, show how these peptides could slow the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries. The study was partly funded by NHLBI.