The collection of microbes in our bodies, our microbiome, weighs about twice as much as our brains. Lately, more scientists are weighing on the connection between the two. The discussion—and science—bodes well for the probiotics market. Three researchers talked about their findings, and the potential to treat brain disorders through the gut, rather than the brain, at the Kavli Foundation, a California-based organization that supports the advancement of science. Their work was mentioned on sciencedaily.com.
"The big question right now is how the microbiome exerts its effects on the brain," said Christopher Lowry, associate professor of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, in a foundation release. Lowry is researching whether beneficial microbes can be used to treat or prevent conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Tracy Bale, professor of Neuroscience at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and her team have conducted pioneering research on mice exploring how stress-related changes in a mother’s microbiome asffect her developing baby. "So, if mom's microbial ecosystem changes—due to infection, stress or diet, for example—her newborn's gut microbiome will change too, and that can have a lifetime effect," Bale said in the release.
Sarkis Mazmanian, the Louis & Nelly Soux Professor of Microbiology at the California Institute of Technology, is exploring the link between gut bacteria, gastrointestinal disease and autism. "We've shown, for example, that a metabolite produced by gut bacteria is sufficient to cause behavioral abnormalities associated with autism and with anxiety when it is injected into otherwise healthy mice," Mazmanian said in the release. "There are flash bulbs going off in the dark, suggesting that very complex neurodegenerative disorders may be linked to the microbiome,” he said. “But once again this is very speculative. These seminal findings, the flash bulbs, are only just beginning to illuminate our vision of the gut-microbiome-brain connection," said Mazmanian. You can listen to their discussion online.