Understanding our intestinal rainforest

If the wrong bacteria colonize the intestine, the whole body suffers.

There are more bacteria living within and on the surface of the body than there are cells making up the human body. Thanks to its biodiversity, the intestine could be thought of as being the rainforest of the body. The bacteria in our bowels play an important role in our health. They digest our food, neutralize toxins and help in the production of vitamins.

Depending on the types of bacteria we possess, we might remain healthy or become sick. This can manifest itself in digestive problems but also as diabetes and even depression. In recent years, cases of intestinal inflammation have become increasingly common. When inflammation occurs, the body's immune system turns against our intestinal flora. The reasons for this are still unknown.

Andrew Macpherson from the University of Bern examines the ecosystem within the intestine to find therapies for patients with inflammatory bowel diseases. To do this, he works alongside mathematicians to study the interactions between bacteria and the immune system using computer models.

Andrew Macpherson, andrew.macpherson(at)dkf.unibe.ch, +41 31 632 36 60


Department program of SNF