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Discovering the Therapeutic Potential of Keystone Bacteria in Treating Chronic Diseases

Apr 22, 2020

Keystone gut bacteria are the foundation of the whole microbial ecosystem because they provide very specific metabolic functions that support other more generalist micro-organisms.

When it comes to microbiome, it’s all about balance. Our gut microbiome is like a virgin forest, a complex and diverse ecosystem that have evolved with our organs and function in symbiosis with our body. Our modern life, characterized by unhealthy diet, pollution, stress and chemical drug exposure such as antibiotics, etc. can strongly deteriorate our microbiome ecosystem and thus, reduce its richness. This imbalance of the microbiome, termed dysbiosis, influences the development of chronic diseases.

A healthy gut microbiome is composed of a mixture of micro-organisms including bacteria, fungi, viruses and others. Gut bacteria can be divided in 3 categories: dominant bacteria, subdominant keystone bacteria and opportunistic pathogens. The tenet of keystone species was coined in 1966 by the American ecologist Robert T. Paine. Referring to sea ecosystem, he demonstrated that the removal of sea stars had a dramatic impact on the shoreline ecosystem community and biodiversity.

Among the billions of bacteria that make up our body, certain families are the drivers of the gut microbiome structure and functioning. There are called “keystone taxa”.

Why are keystone bacteria unique for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome?

Contrary to what is commonly believed, the abundance of a species is not the best determinant of its contribution to the gut microbial ecosystem. Keystone taxa are often subdominant slow growers that set the scene for the fast growers, dominant bacteria. At the root of the gut microbiome community, keystone taxa help the rest of the ecosystem grow, and provide key functions.

An increasing number of scientific publications have highlighted a core microbial community, associated with major metabolic functions that must be present to maintain symbiosis. Within the core microbial community are keystone taxa whose role is to perform a range of precise metabolic processes. They are indeed responsible for narrow, non-redundant metabolic processes, that provide multiple benefits to the entire bacterial community.

In addition, despite their heterogeneity, microbes have one thing in common: they are highly gregarious communicating organisms. Keystone bacteria are highly effective at stimulating quorum sensing, that is a biological mechanism that brings microbes together through chemical signals attracting other bacteria and thus, creating the foundation of a stable microbial ecosystem. Once this healthy gut microbiome is established, this community will enter a bidirectional dialogue with the host to regulate the metabolism, immune system and neuronal activities.   

Hence, removal or loss of keystone taxa can cause “a pyramid collapse”, thus generating a dramatic shift in microbiome structure and function, and resulting in a negative impact on our health.

At LNC Therapeutics, we strongly believe that keystone bacterial species are the key for treating chronic diseases associated with gut dysbiosis. Therefore, we harness the therapeutic potential of these keystone bacteria to develop single-strain Live Biotherapeutic Products to regrow the pyramid of a healthy gut microbiome.

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