Perth Research: can gut microbes affect heart health?

A new study is currently recruiting patients to evaluate the link between heart health and the composition of the gut microbiota.

Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in Australia and worldwide. In Australia there are more than 1.2 million Australians living with one or more heart conditions, and it is estimated that 25% of all deaths are due to cardiovascular disease.

There is a myriad of factors involved in the development of heart disease, from lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise levels to underlying genetic factors and age. However, growing evidence suggest that the gut microbiota may have a significant influence in heart disease, particularly through the multiple metabolites produced by these microorganism, which include short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), bile acids (BAs) and trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO).

Now, a new study, led by Adilah Ahmad, a researcher from Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and The University of Western Australia, is recruiting participants to test the link between gut microbes and heart health.

About the study
The human body is host for billions of microorganisms, mostly bacteria, but also viruses, fungi, and protozoa. These microorganisms are collectively known as the human microbiota, and they can be found living in the gut, skin, mouth, genitals and inner linings of the body. A significant portion of the human microbiota lives in the large intestine, where they are commonly known as the gut microbiota.

The study will analyse blood, saliva, stool and dental plaque samples from individuals with cardiovascular disease as well as healthy individuals, used as controls. Their goal is to compare levels of metabolite and the diversity of gut microorganisms among healthy and diseased participants.

“The main goal of the study is to further understand the link between gut and heart as it is an area of much interest in research,” Ms Ahmad told Medical Forum.

“By profiling the specific gut bacteria, we can determine whether microbiota alteration (through diet, prebiotics, probiotics etc) could provide a low cost, easily manageable and personalised potential therapeutic target in those with heart disease,” Ms Ahmad added.

The findings of this study may provide some valuable insights about the influence of gut microorganisms on hearth health. By comparing the composition of the gut microbiota and their metabolites in healthy participants with those affected by heart disease, the study seeks to identify specific metabolites and microbial species linked to health and to disease.

“The results of our study will have clinical implications and contribute to future therapies/treatments,” Ms Ahmad said. The hope is that this research “may facilitate future development of different therapeutic strategies to target and/or change the microbiome, which will be explored through intervention studies,” she added.

For anyone wanting to take part in this study, here are some relevant details.

  • Target population: Healthy non-smoking men & women aged 35-80 years.
  • Time commitment: 2 visits to Fiona Stanley Hospital, 6 months apart for sample collection.
  • Samples collected: Participants will need to provide blood, saliva, stool and dental plaque.

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