Paris, France – When it’s time to bet on a big race, everyone has their own formula for choosing the winner. Whether you play the odds or choose a horse by their name, are there no safe bets or are there? A new study reveals that the hoses may be able to detect sports performance, but not yours, but the horse’s! Researchers in France say that the microbiome of the horse’s intestines communicates with the animal’s cells, which can actually improve energy output.
A team from the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment believes this paves the way for new animal nutrition supplements. For racehorses, this would mean better gut health and better track ability.
“We were one of the first to show that certain types of horse gut bacteria produce chemical signals that interact with mitochondria in horse cells that regulate and generate energy,” study author Eric Barrey said in a press release. “We believe that metabolites – small molecules created by the breakdown of larger molecules for food or growth – produced by these bacteria result in a delay in low blood sugar and inflammation in the cells, which in turn prolongs a horse’s athletic performance.”
Intestines in bacteria and connection with diseases
The researchers found that the mitochondria in the cells have a strong interdependence with the intestinal bacteria of the animal (or person). Mitochondria are energy structures in each of the body’s cells.
Although a good connection between the two can promote more energy, changes in gut health can lead to disease. The study’s authors say changes in the human microbiome can result in diseases that cause mitochondrial dysfunction, such as Parkinson’s and Crohn’s disease.
“Studying horses is a good way to assess the link between intestinal bacteria and mitochondria, because the level of exercise, and thus mitochondrial function, that a horse performs during an endurance race is similar to that of marathon runners,” explains the first author, Dr. Nuria Mach.
Is better gut health hidden in your genes?
The researchers examined blood samples from 20 healthy horses of similar age and performance levels. The team took samples before and after the International Endurance Competition in Fontainebleau, an eight-hour horse race in France.
“These samples provide information about chemical signals and the expression of certain genes, which is the process by which DNA is converted into instructions for making proteins or other molecules,” says Dr. Mach.
To get a picture of the bacterial metabolites in the gut bacteria of each horse, the researchers also collected faecal samples before the race. The results reveal that certain bacteria show a link to gene expression in cellular mitochondria. The “involved” genes have also been linked to cellular functions that help them adapt to energy metabolism.
“It is interesting that mitochondria have a bacterial origin – it is believed that they created a symbiotic relationship with other components to create the first cell. This may explain why mitochondria have this line of communication with intestinal bacteria, ”explains Barrey.
The study’s authors believe that a better understanding of communication with gut microbiomes will lead to increased horse performance in the future. Knowing how bacteria improve cell function can also lead to better nutritional and training techniques.
“Manipulating the intestinal microbiota with probiotic supplements, as well as prebiotics, to feed good bacteria, could be a way to increase the health and balance of the microbiome and the horse, to better maintain endurance exercise,” Mach concludes.
The study appears in a journal Boundaries in molecular biosciences.