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Gut Feelings: Gut bacteria linked to heart attack size and severity
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Part 2: An interview with human microbiome researcher Dr. John Baker

This article is Part 2 of the Cureality series on the human microbiome.  Dr. Baker received his Ph.D. degree in Biochemistry from the University of London in 1984 for studies on the mechanisms underlying the calcium paradox in the rat heart. Dr. Baker's postdoctoral training was carried out in Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin where in 1987 he joined the faculty. In 1992, Dr. Baker was appointed as a secondary faculty member in the Department of Biochemistry.

Cureality: Good morning Dr. Baker and thank you for taking the time to discuss your remarkable findings regarding heart disease and gut bacteria.   In broad terms, would I be correct in summing up your experimental conclusions by saying that the type of bacteria in the gut significantly affects the size and severity of myocardial infarctions.

Dr. Baker: Yes. Our studies in rats have demonstrated a mechanistic link between the bacteria that live in the intestines and the severity of heart attacks.

Cureality: There has been a fair amount of advanced discussion among our Members on the role of gut micro-flora on the immune system, its relationship to arterial inflammation, and its role in promoting atherosclerosis.  What is your leading theory as to the mechanism that led to your observations on the reduction of infarct size and severity?

Dr. Baker: Let me share some background information to help place what we are doing into a more global perspective. Signals from the intestinal microbiota are important for normal development and physiology; alteration of these microbial communities (dysbiosis) in patients or animal models is associated with multiple disease states including exacerbated inflammatory bowel disease, influenza pathology, diarrhea, allergy, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, cancer and the response to radiation. Intestinal microbiota have been shown to promote cardiovascular disease, specifically atherosclerosis.  However, a proof of concept demonstration of a mechanistic link between the composition of the intestinal microbiota and susceptibility to injury from heart attacks had not been reported and that was the major goal of our study.

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