Summary: The gut microbiome has already been linked to certain neurological and psychological disorders. Now researchers are investigating whether using gut microbes could potentially treat people with depression and other mental health conditions.
Source: UT Southwest
The role of the microbiome in gut and systemic health has been the focus of researchers’ attention for many years.
Today, there is growing evidence that this collection of microorganisms in the human gut can also impact a person’s neurological and emotional health, according to a recent insight article in Science by a researcher at UT Southwestern.
Neuroscientist Jane Foster, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern and leading expert on the microbiome, explains how scientists are unraveling the relationship between the microbiome and the brain, including links to diseases such as depression and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Dr Foster, who first linked microbes in the guts of mice to anxiety, said animal studies have revealed certain related microbes and metabolites that increase anxious behavior and brain function. . Applying these findings to clinical populations could lead to new therapies to improve symptoms and clinical outcomes.
Dr. Foster joined UT Southwestern and its Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care (CDRC) in May to lead the effort to connect the dots between a person’s 39 trillion gut microbes and their propensity for brain disease. Previously, she was a professor at McMaster University in Ontario and co-molecular leader of the Canadian Network for Integrating Biomarkers in Depression (CAN-BIND).
“People at risk of depression or who have been diagnosed with depression are heterogeneous. So we want to use biology to understand biomarkers that can help define different groups of people,” Dr Foster said.
She said UT Southwestern’s approach, which is based on the principle that clinical care and research go hand in hand, prompted her to join the center.
“This holistic approach is needed if we are to find better answers for people with mental illness,” Dr. Foster said.
The CDRC conducts research on unipolar and bipolar depression to better understand the causes of depression, identify new treatments, and improve existing ones.
“I am very pleased that we were able to recruit Dr. Foster to join our center, given our continued goal of investigating the biosignature of mental health through a multi-pronged approach,” said Madhukar H. Trivedi, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the CDRC.
Drs. Foster and Trivedi previously collaborated to search for immune markers in blood samples obtained via CAN-BIND to see how inflammation might influence depression, and in stool samples collected from participants in the Texas Resilience Against Longitudinal Study. Depression.
If the sample from a patient with depression contains certain microbes associated with successful treatment of certain antidepressants or therapies, this may lead to personalized medicine for that patient.
“Currently we have a host of treatment choices, but decisions are mostly based on behavior and self-report, and imaging and EEGs in some cases,” Dr. Foster said. “Antidepressants typically work for about 40% of people. Other choices include cognitive behavioral therapy, deep brain stimulation, or even exercise and diet. By expanding the individual patient profile, can we now improve the number of people who respond to a particular treatment?”
Dr. Trivedi holds the Betty Jo Hay Chair of Excellence in Mental Health and the Julie K. Hersh Chair in Depression Research and Clinical Care.
About this mental health research news
Author: Press office
Source: UT Southwest
Contact: Press Office – UT Southwest
Image: Image is in public domain
Original research: Access closed.
“Modulating Brain Function with Microbiota” by Jane A. Foster, et al. Science
Modulating brain function with microbiota
From the discovery of roles of the gut microbiota in metabolic disorders such as obesity to recent discoveries of modulating gut microbiota responses to cancer immunotherapy, microbiome research has spanned all areas of research biomedical over the past 15 years.
A vital role for gut microbiota-brain communication in brain development, behavior and function has emerged.
Research using germ-free mice has been instrumental in identifying brain systems that can be regulated by microbiota, including blood-brain barrier permeability, brain volume, neural circuitry, myelination, and alterations in microglia.
Molecules of microbial origin, including neurotransmitters, short-chain fatty acids, bile acids, lactate, and vitamins, exert local effects in the gastrointestinal environment, but can also enter the circulation to act on distant sites, including the brain.
Recent efforts to translate preclinical findings in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to the clinic highlight the potential for clinically important findings in microbiota and brain research.
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