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Bioinformatics speeds research on how gut bacteria controls your mind, changes your blood type and health

Type O blood is universal donor blood which means it can be given to any patient that needs it regardless of their own blood type. Producing more type O blood can save many lives and improve efficiencies by reducing blood typing costs and delays before infusions. Unfortunately, there is an ongoing shortage of type O blood, according to the American Red Cross, hospitals, and other emergency blood providers. The good news is that scientists have discovered enzymes in the human gut that can change any human blood type into type O.

While transforming blood types is a fascinating and life-saving development, it is but the tiniest fraction of benefits to be had from understanding bacteria enzymes and their effect on human lives and health.

Those effects are huge and often mind-boggling. For example, you may have heard that human gut bacteria have a direct connection to your brain and can change your mood or mind.

“With a sophisticated neural network transmitting messages from trillions of bacteria, the brain in your gut exerts a powerful influence over the one in your head, new research suggests,” reads the American Psychological Association article.

For more info on the alien mind-meld between gut bacteria and your brain, watch this Duke University video.

Meanwhile, you may also have heard about the weight loss and health impacts of gut bacteria which has given rise to probiotic and prebiotic supplements.

While scientists have been aware for years now that enzymes produced by gut bacteria are the key to many medical and health breakthroughs, the research to discover and refine this knowledge has been long and laborious. That is, until bioinformatics made the computational work much faster.

Now scientists are using bioinformatics to create advanced specialized tools to identify gut bacteria enzymes -- and determine precisely what they do -- even faster.

“If you sequence a plant or bacterial genome, there are probably tens of thousands of genes, but just five percent of those genes are these enzymes,” Yanbin Yin, associate professor of food science and technology at University of Nebraska-Lincoln noted in a FeedStuffs article.

“If you do experiments, it could take 20 or 30 years to figure it out. With this software system, you can do it in five minutes.”

Yin developed the computational tools needed to identify the enzymes that transform indigestible fibrous food into usable sugars for the gut bacteria’s animal and human hosts.

The resulting new software system is based on artificial intelligence (AI), or rather a subset of it called machine learning. That means that while he is training the software on identifying a specific class of enzymes, the software continues to learn in order to discover more about these enzymes and to identify other enzymes as well.

“Yin is creating computer algorithms that learn and improve as data are added. His starting point is a CAZyme database -- compiled from the scientific literature and maintained by other researchers -- which he’s using to train his identification software to package into a free, user-friendly website for CAZyme researchers,” reports the FeedStuffs article.

There’s probably some “gut instinct” involved in that collaborative research too, don’t you think? Could the bacteria also be the muse behind this important work? Perhaps the AI can tell us the complete story one day. In any case, as fantastic as it all sounds, it’s all science and no fiction.

Bioinformatics speeds research on how gut bacteria controls your mind, changes your blood type and health

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