BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

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Parents Take Warning: Antibiotics Can Be Harmful to Infants

Antibiotics are the marvel of modern medicine. They have brought about incredible medical advances, treating bacterial diseases and helping to prolong lifespans in modern times. But a new study conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Broad Institute has shined a light on the potential negative effects antibiotics can have on an infant’s health.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/herebedragons/2573487530

The study, conducted in partnership with a team of Finnish researchers, took monthly fecal samples from 39 children from birth until they were 36 months old and analyzed the sample using standard, RNA sequencing procedure to identify different microbes. During the study, 20 of the children had taken antibiotics for respiratory or ear infections ranging from 9 to 15 treatments over the course of the study. From this data, the researchers could analyze the diversity of the gut microbiome of these participants with respect to their antibiotic usage.

The researchers had chosen to analyze the effect antibiotics have on the gut microbiome in young children because of the pivotal role antibiotics appear to play in human health during early development. Low diversity in the early years of life of this collection of bacteria residing in the intestines has been linked to allergies and autoimmune diseases.

The results of this study show a decrease in the diversity of the microbial gut populations in infants who took antibiotics. This was even more pronounced when the infants were marked with a specific signature low in a bacteria known as Bacteriodes (this decrease in Bacteriodes has been speculated to be linked to Caesarean section births in the past but the researchers found this rationale to be inconclusive as well as another rationale that prolonged breastfeeding led to a stronger gut microbiome with higher levels of Bifidobacteria).

When the infants had taken antibiotics, a single strain of bacteria tended to rule their gut with only a few species surviving. On the whole, the gut microbiomes of these participants were less stable and had higher levels of antibiotic resistant genes.

Don’t get me wrong: antibiotics are an incredible innovation that has saved millions of lives. But, be careful in thinking they are a cure all. They’re side-effects might be more harmful than you think, especially in children.

How does this research change your perception of antibiotics?

 

No More Lactase Pills?!

Love milk, yogurt, pizza, and other irresistible dairy products?  Hate having to take lactase pills or face suffering in the bathroom every time after you eat or drink them?  You’re not alone. In fact, it is estimated that around 75% of the entire human population has difficulty absorbing lactose, or the sugar found in milk and dairy products. However, a recent revelation has suggested a way to manipulate the human gut microbiome and circumvent this issue.

Bifidobacteria in human gut microbiome

In a study conducted by Dr. Andrea Azcarate-Peril, an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the School of Medicine at UNC Chapel Hill, it was shown that highly purified (>95%) galactooligosaccharides could indeed improve or often eliminate the indigestion (nausea, cramps, bloating, etc.) felt by lactose-intolerant subjects. To investigate this finding, Azcarate-Peril and her team conducted the following experimentation.

Human subjects were administered the high-purity short-chain GOS, designated as “RP-G28”, and stool samples were collected at three separate times: pretreatment (day 0), post-treatment (day 36), and after the GOS feeding was halted and the subject was encouraged to consume dairy products (day 66).  To analyze changes within the fecal microbiome, scientists used 16s rRNA amplicon pyrosequencing and high-throughput quantitative PCR.  Samples from day 36 saw an increase in bifidobacterial populations in 27 out of the 30 subjects (90%).  This confirmed that GOS resulted in a bifidogenic response in vivo.  Additionally,  GOS induced a significant increase in the relative amount of lactose-fermenting Facecalibacterium and Lactobacillus.  Then, when dairy was introduced into the subjects’ diets (day 36 to day 66), lactose-fermenting Roseburia species presence increased.  In conclusion, the results of Azcarate-Peril’s work indicate that a GOS diet can cause a definitive change in the fecal microbiome of a lactose-intolerant individual, increasing concentrations of a lactose-metabolizing bacteria.  The change discovered has been correlated with improved lactose tolerance in patients at the clinical level.

We might be on the verge of helping millions upon millions of people who are lactose malabsorbers!  As an individual who struggles with lactose intolerance, this is fantastic news and I cannot wait for more research to be conducted in this domain.  What other gastrointestinal issues could we solve by affecting the human gut microbiome?  Are we on the road to curing inflammatory bowl disease (primarily ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease)?

 

Possible Links Between Gut Microbes and Obesity, Cancer & Autism

While the bacteria in our gut play a vital role in the digestion process, recent findings have suggested that it could effect much more in our bodies. New studies have found possible links between the bacteria in our gut and obesity, cancer and autism.

Creative Commons image link

A study done by Cornell University and King’s College London revealed that Christensenellaceae minuta, a strain of gut bacteria, was found more often and in larger quantities in people with lower body masses. To investigate whether the bacteria is actually linked with obesity, researchers added the same bacteria into the guts of mice and compared their weight gain to mice lacking the bacteria. The research showed that the mice with Christensenellaceae minuta gained noticeably less weight than the mice lacking the bacteria. While research is still in its early stages, these results have made an exciting connection between bacteria in our gut and weight gain, which could dramatically impact the future of our health.

In addition to obesity, the bacteria in our gut has also been linked to cancer- in both beneficial and detrimental aspects. Researchers from the National Cancer Institute tested the effect of gut bacteria on chemotherapy in mice and found that the chemotherapy was significantly less effective in the mice lacking the bacteria. Similarly, another study found that cyclophosphamide, an antitumor drug, was less effective in mice with insufficient gut bacteria compared to those with normal levels. While these studies showed positive links between gut bacteria and cancer, other studies have found adverse effects of gut bacteria.

Unfortunately, a study published in The Journal of Cancer Research in 2012 has made a possible connection between Lactobacillus johnsonii, a strain of gut bacteria, and lymphoma, cancer of the white blood cells. The study claims that the presence of this specific strain of bacteria could lead to the development of lymphoma. Another study done in the UK in 2013 found that a specific gut bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, has the ability to deactivate the part of our immune system responsible for regulating inflammation. In effect, this could cause stomach cancer and ulcers.

While it may seem like a stretch, numerous studies have found a possible link to autism and the bacteria in our gut. A study done in 2013 by Arizona State University found that compared to children without autism, children suffering from autism had lower levels of Prevotella, Coprococcus and Veillonellaceae, three strains of gut bacteria. Even more surprisingly, another study revealed that the presence of Bacteroides fragilis in the gut reduced autism-like symptoms in mice. Research in this field is still in its primary stages, as researchers are trying to figure out if these connection are in fact related, and if so, how the bacteria directly effects these conditions.

 

Mouse Gut Research Could Save Your Brain

A new study in mice published by Nature Magazine suggests that a specific microbial balance results in a reduction of brain damage after a stroke. The severity of a stroke is determined by two types of intestinal cells: Regulatory T Cells and Gamma Delta T Cells. Regulatory T cells have a helpful inflammatory effect. However, Gamma Delta T Cells make a cytokine which results in harmful post-stroke inflammation.

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center studied two different groups of mice in order to learn if gut cells could be altered in order to reduce stroke severity. One group of mice had gut bacteria that was unaffected by antibiotics, while the other group of mice’s gut bacteria was extremely vulnerable to antibiotics. The group of mice that was vulnerable to antibiotics had a higher ratio of good Regulatory T Cells to harmful Delta T Cells.

House mouse.jpg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murinae#/media/File:House_mouse.jpg

The researchers then induced strokes in all of the mice, and the brain damage was 60% less devastating in the mice vulnerable to antibiotics than the other group. In order to ensure that the difference in stroke severity was solely as a result of the gut bacteria, the researchers took the feces of the mice with reduced stroke severity, and transplanted it into new mice. Those new mice also exhibited a resistance to brain damage, confirming the belief that the gut bacteria was responsible for the change.

These new findings in the research of mice may be able to benefit humans in the future. Antibiotics or a specific diet may be able to reduce the effect of stroke on the brain. However, the gut microbiome of a mouse is vastly different than the gut microbiome of a human, so it may be a while before new treatments are discovered.

When in doubt go with your gut!

The human gut has trillions of bacteria that help to regulate digestion and break down food.  An extremely important function they have is to keep out bad bacteria and potential harmful microbes.  The gut is a very important part of the body, because it affects not only your digestion and metabolism, but your brain too!

Often called your “second brain,” the human gut plays a big role in a human’s life.  The gut produces about 95% of serotonin, which is the drug that affects emotion.  An experiment with mice was done to see the effect that their gut had on their brain activity.

Each mouse received antibiotics, consisting of neurochemicals that enhanced mood, and were observed after this change occurred in their gut.  The mice became more energetic.  The article mentioned that even changing an animal’s gut by one bacteria can change their mood.  In this case altering one bacteria was tested which caused the mice to be more cautious than normal.

This article went in depth on how the bacteria in your gut can cause anxiety. “Bacteria communicate with the brain via the vagus nerve: When the vagus nerve is severed, effects of gut bacteria on brain biochemistry, stress response and behavior evaporate.”  They then went on to discuss how someone’s brain can affect the human gut, which was extremely fascinating.

Golden Snub-nosed Monkeys, Qinling Mountains - China

They first did tests with monkey’s and found that mothers who were exposed to loud noises during pregnancy caused their offspring to have less beneficial bacteria.  Another experiment was done with students in which they gave stool samples during exam week.  The results showed that their was less good bacteria in their gut, called lactobacilli.

In general the human gut plays a huge role on the brain and vice versa.  Stay healthy, don’t stress too much over school because you never know what anxiety could be doing to the good bacteria in your gut!

I chose this article because I have stomach issues and had to go gluten free.  I didn’t realize what goes into your gut had such a large effect on the brain!

 

Gut bacterial and fungal community interactions identified for first time as a factor in Crohn’s disease

Recent studies have found that the interactions between the gut bacteriome and mycobiome are closely related to the development and severity of Crohn’s Disease. Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease, that causes inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract. It can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition.

In the past, the majority of studies have focused on the bacterial microbiota (bacteriome), and little attention has been paid to the fungal lining of the stomach (mycobiome). In a recent study, led by Professor Mahmoud A. Ghannoum from teh Center for Medical Mycology at the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, has found new bacteria and fungi interactions that may play major roles in the development of Chron’s Disease. In his study, Prof. Ghannoum found an increase in possible pathogenic bacteria and a decrease in beneficial bacteria in CD patients.

Three organisms often found included the S. marcescens, C. tropicalis, and E. coli. The three organisms work together to create a bio film on the inner linings of the stomach. As we’ve learned in class, bacteria are unicellular organisms. They have no nuclear membrane, making them Prokaryotic. The three organisms C. tropicalis, S. marescens and E. coli were highly correlated in individuals with CD and may be key determinants of CD development.

I found this study fascinating because it brings us one step closer to discovering the possible causes of Crohn’s Disease. Approximately 1.6 million Americans suffer from Crohn’s Disease. Finding a cause, would be a huge gain in trying to find a cure. Having a loved one who suffers this disease, it gives my family and I hope for a healthy and pain free future. The questions I’d have, is why do those three specific types of bacteria increase in Crohn’s patients? Or how do they get there in such large numbers?

 

Main link: http://www.gutmicrobiotaforhealth.com/en/gut-bacterial-fungal-community-interactions-identified-first-time-factor-crohns-disease/

 

Secondary sources: http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/44/2/256.full

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19817674

Can Probiotics Cure Alzheimer’s?

 

 

Research on how gut microbiota affects Alzheimer’s Disease, also called AD, has been done, and promising data collected. The only problem is that all of this data comes solely from research done on mice. There has been minimal research up to the present that was tested on actual people.

The closest thing to real-life research in this field, however, would be the research done by Dr. Mahmoud Salami, as reviewed by Gut Microbiota Research and Practice. Dr. Salami has collected data from a trial he is conducting in Iran. This trial consists of 60 people between the age 60 and 95. Now since we know that there has been minimal research on how gut microbiota effects Alzheimer’s, this work done by Dr. Salami is impressive.

Dr. Salami has found that a daily dose of probiotic Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bacteria taken over 12 weeks may improve cognitive function in elderly Alzheimer’s patients. Although more research must be done to have more definitive answers, Dr. Salami’s research opens up even more of a reason to human testing to be done.

Countless research has been done on how where one lives can affect there health, so wouldn’t it be interesting to see if data, similar to Dr. Salami’s, collected in varying locations throughout the world may provide varying results due to the location the participant calls their home?

 

 

New Reason to Watch Your “Diet”: The Human Gut Microbiome and Competition

The human body consists of approximately 100 trillion microbes, and in the digestive tract of the human gut alone it is estimated that there are trillions of microbes. Recent studies done by Athena Aktipis, a researcher at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, have shown that people’s dietary choices either help to increase the cooperation between gut microbes and their human hosts, or they could potentially lead to conflict between the two.

The microbiota consists of bacteria, and the human microbiota contains about 500 different species of microbes. There is a possibility that the composition of these microbes could affect behavior, susceptibility to allergies, and even likelihood for obesity. According to several previous studies, exposure to intestinal bacteria prevents allergies in infants and young children. This has been determined by examining the noticeable difference between the compositions of intestinal bacteria in children who have developed allergies and children who have not. The current study further looks at cooperation and competition between human cells and other cells that coexist with them. Cells are cooperative between the human cells and gut microflora when bacterial cells produce energy and vitamins. It also is beneficial when bacterial cells help to detect pathogens that are dangerous to the host. Conflict on the other hand is more likely to occur when the needs of microbes and the needs of the host are at “cross-purposes”, or they contradict one another. This internal conflict could lead to chronic afflictions such as inflammatory diseases that are caused directly by the body’s attempt to maintain dominance in this “power-struggle” within the host.

These recent studies have also shown that sugar and fat are most likely contributors to conflicts that arise between host cells and microbes. This is due to the fact that fats and simple sugars also can be used by microbes such as E. coli, which further contributes to the conflict. The results of these studies suggest that a diet consisting of low fiber and abundant sugar leads to the conditions where conflict takes place between human cells and microbes. When their interests clash or coincide, the cells in the body trigger immune responses that lead to different afflictions that include a wide range of diseases, some of them being inflammatory. Similar to fats and simple sugars, iron is also potentially dangerous in the sense that a pathogen could steal iron from host cell proteins which would ultimately compromise the health and nutrition of the host. According to the studies, it is recommended to maintain a diet that has high nutritional density but also low concentrations of pathogens in order to promote cooperation and prevent any competition or conflict that could damage your overall health and wellness.

 

Further reading:

Gut microbiota in 2016: A banner year for gut microbiota research

The Effect of Diet on the Human Gut Microbiome: A Metagenomic Analysis in Humanized Gnotobiotic Mice

More Bacteria than Human?

The well being of humans is best when we are cooperating with others whether that be other humans or bacteria inside of us. According to Matthew Bull “the human gut microbiome and its role in both health and disease has been the subject of extensive research, establishing its involvement in human metabolism, nutrition, physiology, and immune function.” An imbalance in our microbiome will often result in some type of sickness so it is very important to keep our guts healthy. It is likely that there are more bacteria cells in our gut than there are our own cells. So in this image right here  there would be more bacteria cells than human cells. Some people even consider the microbiome a bacteria ecosystem that just happens to be in our gut. While this may sound bad, these bacteria often break down food for us and supply us with energy needed to do daily activities. It is truly fascinating to think that we have many living things inside of us that may even outnumber what is actually considered “us”. But is it possible for these bacteria to take over our bodies? The answer is probably no…we hope, but if we continue to eat well and stay healthy these bacteria should continue to help us. However, if we eat poorly and don’t stay healthy these bacteria can end up being a problem for use. So at the end of the day eating health helps the relationship between us and the bacteria inside of us stay healthy and lets us stay healthy.

The diet that we should have to keep a healthy relationship with these bacteria involve eating less sugar and fat and eating more fiber. A diet with a lot of fat and sugar but little fiber can lead to illness. It is also best to stay away from eating a lot of iron. There are some things that help our microbiomes such as milk, milk has proteins in it that help keep our microbiomes health. So eat less sugar, bad fats, and iron and eat more fiber and drink more milk.

 

Can your Medications Hurt you More Than Help?

This is an image of the GI tract. This is the location of where the illness affects the body.

Patrick Schloss, a scientist studying the affects of antibiotics, constructed an experiment that tested the susceptibility of mice to Clostridium difficile (C. diff), which is a bacteria that affects humans and animals. Symptoms include diarrhea and severe inflation of the colon. It is known as an in imbalance of the beneficial bacteria in the gut and is very hard to treat. Fecal transplants can be used to treat Clostridium difficile but he thinks that there may be an easier way. This illness is not caused by any one microbe, but it occurs when lots of bacteria are removed from the GI tract usually due to some form of antibiotic, that is taken to treat another issue that the person is having. Wouldn’t it be be easier if there was a way to prevent this illness in the first place? We all get a common cold, most of us are on the road to recovery once our physician  prescribes us an antibiotic to knock out out our infection. We just need to make sure that it doesn’t take out our good bacteria as well.

In Schloss’s experiment, he first gave mice antibiotics and measured the type and amount of bacteria in the GI tracts. They then added a pathogen to the experiment,  that would almost insure that the mice would get C.diff. When they got the results, they found something that might be very helpful to humans in the medical field.

They found that the mice that had the bacteria of specific groups were much less likely to get C.diff.  Porphyromonadaceae, Lachnospiraceae, Lactobacillus, Alistipes, and Turicibacter are groups of bacteria that seemed to protect the mice from getting the illness. While other bacteria groups increased the likely hood of the mouse getting it, such as Escherichia or Streptococcus bacteria.

This information could be very helpful while treating and even preventing C. diff. If given access to these antibiotics, doctors could diagnose the patient based on whichever bacteria they are lacking. We can prevent Cdiff if we can drastically decrease our susceptibility to it, which can be possible in future. And we could also try not prescribe mediations that we know are harmful in terms of causing Cdiff. This information could really help many people that need to take antibiotics and also people who already have Cdiff.

http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/43512/title/Microbiome-Teams-Up-Against-C–diff/

Some other links to check out:

Clostridium Difficile Infection: What Nurses Need to Know

http://www.emedicinehealth.com/clostridium_difficile_c_difficile_c_diff/page2_em.htm

 

Our Intestines Cure Cancer??

There are over one hundred trillion organisms- most are bacteria- living in our intestine today. These are referred to as the gut microbiota.

While trillions of bacteria sounds scary, they can actually be very helpful. Research has been done worldwide and the discovery has been that gut microbes actually can kill cancer cells all over the body. (Not just in the intestines) But how? Gut microbes and cancer actually cross paths. Gut microbes can manipulate the immune system and can either increase inflammation or lower it as needed. This means the bacteria can actually work with cancer treatments, boost T-cells, and control other factors that help cancer grow such as fungi, or viruses.

However, this is not all. While some cells help against cancer growth, others do the opposite. It varies cancer to cancer, and all have different results. As said by microbiologist and immunologist Patrick Schloss “What we really need is to have a much better understanding of which species, which type of bug, is doing what and try to change the balance.” So more research is still being done to decide how to control the microbiota, but a possible theory is that because it’s in the intestine it is related to our metabolisms and so what we eat controls the bacterium- this can also then effect the colon, thus effecting more cancer: colon cancer.

 

The Microbiome’s Role in the Success of a Diet

Just in time for the many New Years resolutions where people promise to go on a diet to lose weight or get healthier, a new study covered by Huffingtonpost has found that the bacteria in your gut can affect the success of your diet.  This new research has demonstrated that all the diet alterations in the world, whether you give up pizza or ice cream, may do nothing if your intestinal bacteria are out of whack from a life of eating poorly.

Originally published in the journal Cell Host and Microbe, these new findings tell us that switching to a healthier diet may not help much, at least in the beginning, if you still have unhealthy bacteria left over from your non-diet days.

However, according to Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, a biologist at Wash U in St. Louis and senior author of the paper, the scientific community has found a way to “mine the gut microbial communities of different humans to identify the organisms  that help promote the effects of a particular diet in ways that might be beneficial.” In simpler words, research has shown that short-term dietary changes can alter the gut microbial community.

In order to demonstrate these findings, the researchers examined two groups: one that ate the standard, high-calorie American diet and one that ate a more plant-based, lower calorie diet. As expected, they found that those with the standard American diet had less diverse microbiota and that people with a plant-based diet had a more diverse, and healthier, microbiome. Diversity in the gut is important because it aids digestion, nutrient absorption, and immune system function; on the flip side, an unhealthy microbiome can contribute to inflammation, anxiety, depression, poor digestion and even autoimmune diseases.

Link to Image

The next step in the experiment involved analyzing the microbiome set-up in mice who had been colonized with bacteria from the human subject. These mice were either fed the native diet of their human donor (American or healthy), or the opposite diet. Analysis of the results revealed that all mice saw a change in their bacteria in response to the diet, but the bacteria of the American diet showed a weaker response to being changed to a plant-based diet ― their microbial communities didn’t increase and diversify as much as the mice colonized with the bacteria of the humans who ate a plant-based diet.

In conclusion, your gut would definitely benefit from a diet more heavily based on plants and vegetables, but if you have been eating a very unhealthy diet thus far, it may take a little longer to see results, as the makeup of your internal microbiome has to change.

Gut Microbes and the Brain

Neuroscientists are studying the idea that intestinal microbiota might influence brain development and behavior.

Neuroscientist Knickmeyer is looking to study 30 newborns and how they have grown into inquisitive, curious one-year olds through a series of behavioral and temperament tests. She is eager to see their faecal microbiota, bacteria, viruses and other microbes that live in their guts.

Studies of animals raised in sterile, germ-free conditions showed that these microbes in the gut influence behavior and can alter brain neurochemistry and physiology. Some research has drawn links with gut bacteria and their interactions with the brain.

Escherichia coli, a species of bacteria present in the human gut https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gut_flora#/media/File:EscherichiaColi_NIAID.jpg

Gut Reactions

Prior to recent research, microbes and the brain have rarely been known to interact, with the exception of when pathogens penetrate the blood brain barrier. When they do, there can be intense effects. For example, the virus causing rabies elicits aggression, agitation and a fear of water. The idea that gut microbes could influence neurobiology was not ever thought of, but this is changing.

One research study showed that IBS lead to issues such as depression and anxiety. This lead scientists to wonder if psychiatric symptoms are driven by inflammation or a whacky microbiome caused by infection.

One 2011 study showed that germ-free mice were less-anxious than mice with indigenous microbes. These studies also showed that many of these behaviors are formed during a critical period during which microbes have their strongest effects. Another problem is that “germ-free” is an unnatural situation. However, it allows for researchers to learn which microbial functions are important for development of organs or cell types.

Chemical Exploration

Recent studies have found that gut microbes directly alter neurotransmitter levels, enabling their communication with neurons.

Scientists are also studying whether or not altered serotonin levels in the gut trigger a cascade of molecular events, therefore affecting brain activity.

In 2015 research showed that myelination can also be influenced by gut microbes, at least in a specific part of the brain. Germ-free mice are protected from some conditions, for example multiple sclerosis, because it is characterized by demyelination of nerve fibers. These scientists wish to use these studies to help humans who suffer from MS.

A Move to Therapy

Tracy Bale, a neuroscientist, sought to study how microbes of pregnant mothers affect their offspring. Maria Dominguez-Bello, microbiologist, wants to see if babies born through Caesarean sections end up with microbiota similar to babies born vaginally if they are swabbed on the mouth and skin with gauze taken from their mothers’ vaginas.

For Knickmeyer, the amygdala and prefrontal cortex are the brain areas that interest her the most in her studies with the newborn infants. This is because both of these areas have been affected by microbiota manipulations in rodent models. Something she is worried might affect the study is the confounding factors such as diet, home lives and environmental exposure.

Source: http://www.nature.com/news/the-tantalizing-links-between-gut-microbes-and-the-brain-1.18557

For more information:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4228144/

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/microbes-can-play-games-mind

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/healthline-/gut-bacteria-and-the-brai_b_11898980.html

Eat Healthy! Your Food Can Cause Depression!

Think of it this way, the bacteria from your food intake remains in your gut for some time. This micro-gut biome is what produces an array of neurochemicals that the brain registers. At this point, the brain regulates some cognitive process with those neurochemicals. The processes include, memory, mood, and learning. Actually, a majority of the supply of serotonin in your body is produced and released by the bacteria in your body. Serotonin is a neurochemical that regulates mood. Thus, a deficiency in serotonin levels can cause depression.  Because of this, the gut is starting to be examined more closely to hopefully help find an easier, less invasive form for depression medication.  

Sander van der Wel, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Genericlicense.

Current depression medication has harsh side effects on the body. As Professor Julio Licinio of Flinders University states, “Antidepressant drugs not only have side-effects which cause other health problems, but they also might not be the best solution for the mental health conditions they’re prescribed to treat,” it becomes evident that there is a void in the medical field. Professor Licinio and his team has high hopes that their gut biome research will serve as a way to fill that void and help millions of with their depression. Because there are 350 million people in the world that suffer from major depressive disorder, MDD, they believe that a simple test can improve the stand of living for the masses.  

Julio Licinio, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Professor Licinio is also the head of the Mind and Brain Theme at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, also known as SAHMRI. In conjunction with Ma-Li Wong–Head of Pharmacogenomics Research Program within the SAHMRI’s Mind and Brain Theme–, Geraint Rogers–Director of Microbiome Research within SAHMRI’s Infection and Immunity Theme–, and Steve Wesselingh–SAHMRI’s Executive Director, and the Infection and Immunity Theme Leader–, Julio Licinio are facing tribulations to inform the international community of the correlations between Obesity and Depression because, as Professor Wong states it, “we are in the midst of an obesity and depression epidemic.”

Why Microbiota Will Ruin Your New Years Resolution:

This year, people across America will make New Years Resolutions about eating better, losing weight, and being healthier. Unfortunately, microbiota, those pesky little gut bacteria in charge of digestion, will be trying to foil your plans.

Microbiota is the term used to describe the entire population of trillions of microbes living in our intestines. Every person has a unique set of individual microbiota, based both on genetics and environmental factors such as diet. It is crucial in the digestive and immune systems, and in producing some vitamins.

A new study has shown that humans living an unrestricted American diet develop certain gut microbiota, that aren’t so easy to get rid of, and once a person switches to a nutritious, plant based diet, that microbiota interferes, counteracting the effects of the diet. In an experiment at the Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology at Washington University in St. Louis, scientists took the microbiota of human samples, half who followed calorie restricted plant-rich diets, and half who had un-restricted diets, and implanted them into test mice. They then switched all the mice to a healthy, plant-rich diet. Although both groups responded to the diet, those with the unrestricted diet had a much weaker and delayed reaction. Scientists then started co-housing the groups of mice. The healthy diet microbiota slowly migrated to the unhealthy mice, accelerating their reaction to the diet, symbolizing hope for future strategies for improving the effectiveness of diets using this data.

Photo:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mus#/media/File:House_mouse.jpg

As a US government publication, this picture is in the public domain

Gut Microbes and Parkinson’s Disease: A Fascinating New Study

Parkinson’s, a disease of the central nervous system, affects approximately one million people in the United States. While the disease known for impairing motor skills, it can also have digestive symptoms such as constipation years before diagnosis. Because of this phenomenon, scientists have begun to investigate the role of gut microbiome composition in this awful disease. One such study conducted by a team at Caltech used transgenic mice to get to the answer. All of the mice overexpressed the protein human a-synuclein, which can form the insoluble fibrils that lead to Parkinson’s. However, the researchers raised some of the mice germ-free, or gave them antibiotics, so no intestinal microbes formed. In these mice, Parkinson’s-like symptoms and brain pathology decreased. In addition, the researchers found that the mice that did have gut microbiota had brain inflammation that the germ-free mice didn’t. Only when the researchers fed the germ-free mice short-chain fatty acids (to stimulate gut microbiota) did they show signs of inflammation and other Parkinson’s symptoms. This suggests that gut microbiota that produce short-chain fatty acids could be what triggers this disease.

The researchers then tried to investigate more about which gut bacteria could cause Parkinson’s. Since different communities of gut bacteria live in people with Parkinson’s disease than in healthy people, they wanted to find out if these different communities are merely a byproduct or a cause of the disease. To do so, they transplanted human gut-derived microbes from Parkinson’s patients into some mice, and microbes from healthy people into others. The transgenic mice with microbiota from the Parkinson’s patients ended up with typical Parkinson’s symptoms like motor dysfunction. However, wild-type mice (mice that didn’t overexpress human a-synuclein) weren’t affected. This finding shows that people who are genetically predisposed to Parkinson’s can be afflicted with symptoms if introduced to microbes that are associated with the disease.

This is such groundbreaking work because it establishes a causality between the gut microbiome and Parkinson’s. It also raises questions about the negative affects of short-chain fatty acids on the mice in this study, since they’ve been known to be beneficial in humans. The researchers wish to continue their work by investigating the types of microbes in people with Parkinson’s to get to the fundamental cause of the disease and possible cures.

Do you think that short-chain fatty acids are actually harming humans in unseen ways? Is investigating human gut microbiomes is the right path to find the cure to Parkinson’s? Let me know in the comments!

Three-dimensional Human Intestinal Cells

Human Intestinal Cells Cultured with Gut Bacteria

Credit: Scitechnol Publisher, URL: https://flic.kr/p/fzFoNE

 

Original Article: http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/47640/title/Gut-Microbes-Linked-to-Neurodegenerative-Disease/

Evolution of the Human Gut Microbiome

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According to an article on Science Daily, Westerners have a very different human gut than hunter-gatherers. Research suggests that Westerners tend to have a less diverse human gut. However, the reason for why is still unclear. Researches from this study have observed two particular groups of people. The hunter-gatherers, known as BaAka pygmies, relied on foods such as fish, fruits, and vegetables. Whereas the group of Westernizers, the Bantu, relied on a market economy. The Bantu grew fruits, other plants and raised goats. They also used antibiotics and therapeutic drugs available.

The results of the study revealed that while the  BaAka and Bantu gut microbes were from similar bacterial species, the abundance of traditional bacterial groups was decreased in the Bantu. When researchers delved into what could have caused the difference between the two groups, they found that diets are the most important driver of microbiome composition in humans.

Another study done by evolutionary biologist, Andrew Moelle, suggests that humans and animals have inherited some bacteria from their ancestors. Moelle studied three types of bacteria living in the feces of wild chimps, bonobos, gorilla and a group of people from Connecticut. He concluded that 2 of the three bacterial trees matched primate relationships. Moelle also expressed how these relationships are getting harder to study due to the effect that industrialization and antibiotics have. They have reduced the diversity of bacteria living in and on humans.  Microbial geneticist, Julia Segre, expressed that humans have been exposed to antibiotics and modern life and as a result, Wild African apes might “still have their ancient gut flora, but the people in Connecticut might not.

A study done by Howard Ochman found that human guts most closely resemble the gut of a gorilla. Like the other researchers, Ochman acknowledges that as a result of modern humans there is a loss of microbial diversity. He also explains how this can be a problem because humans have lost a number of bugs that help digest plant matter. However, humans have gained others that help digest meat.

 

The Human Gut Microbiome and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Researchers of the human gut microbiome have made connections to the autism spectrum disorder.  A gut microbiome involves the digestive tract microbes.  To learn more general information click here.  Studies tested DNA of children with gastrointestinal complaints.  Researches compared children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and mainstream children.  It was found that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder had too many Clostridium or Desulfovibrio clusters.  To learn more about these gene clusters click here. Developing fever, receiving oral antibiotics, or ingesting probiotics are all likely to alter the gut microflora.  When children with Autism Spectrum Disorder do the above, they have exhibited improvement in their gastrointestinal pains; however, there hasn’t been scientific research, as it has only been found anecdotally. Research has been limited due to the difficult culture-dependent techniques; however, metagenomic technology could be used to discover and reduce the effects of the gut microbiome as a part in Autism Spectrum Disorder.

A longitudinal study completed in May 2016 shows more progress that scientists have made in discovering different aspects of autism in relation to the microbiome.  For two weeks, stool samples were collected from patients with autism and their siblings without autism in order to be compared. Sarcina ventriculi, Barnesiella intestihominis, and Clostridium bartlettii are organisms that are related to autism. They were found in the stool samples of children with autism, but not their siblings. Gastrointestinal symptoms were reported on days 6-8 of the study for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, where Haemophilus parainfluenzae was detected at the onset. These patients also exhibited behavioral challenges during these days.

Though scientists have not found a diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorder yet, it is clear that the gut microbiome plays a role in the development. Further research that is not merely based off of a handful of patients needs to be completed to learn more.

Photo of Gut Flora

Tickle, Tickle!

You might be wondering, why am I ticklish? Or, why do I laugh if somebody else tickles me, but not when I try to tickle myself? The mystery of ticklishness has been sought after for decades, including by Darwin and Aristotle.

A recent study tested ticklishness on rats, and the results were astonishing! The rats reacted to human tickles with ultrasonic “laughter cells” and emitted various calls. While many humans are most ticklish on their armpits and stomachs, rats were found to be most ticklish on their bellies and underneath their feet. They performed “joy jumps” after being tickled, which is a behavior associated with joyful subjects in various mammals.

 

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Researchers continued searching for answers, and sought to discover how being ticklish relates to the brain and whether or not it is a trick of the brain that rewards interacting.

When researchers Shimpei Ishiyama and Michael Brecht investigated the response of the rat’s brain to tickling, they observed nerve cells that responded strongly to tickling and they found very similar responses during play behaviors as during tickling- even without the scientist touching the rat. These nerve cells also worked in reverse. For example, if the rats were made anxious, they were less ticklish and the activity in these cells were reduced. It was discovered that activity in the trunk somatosensory cortex is what led to ticklishness.

The discovery of the connection between brain responses to tickling and play was incredible.

 

Other Articles About This Topic:

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/11/10/501447965/brain-scientists-trace-rat-ticklishness-to-play-behavior

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2016/11/11/watch-rats-giggle-and-jump-for-joy-at-being-tickled/

Insulin Resistance Reversed by Removal of Protein

By removing the protein galectin-3 (Gal3) from the insulin receptor cells, a team of investigators led by University of California School of Medicine researchers were able to reverse diabetic insulin resistance and glucose intolerance in mice with diabetes. This could be the beginnings of a break threw in the cure for type 2 diabetes.

By binding to insulin receptors on cells, Gal3 prevents insulin from attaching to the receptors resulting in cellular insulin resistance. A research team led by Jared Olefsky MD, discovered that by genetically removing Gal3 or using pharmaceutical inhibitors to target it, insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance could be returned to normal. Olefsky stated, “Our findings suggest that Gal3 inhibition in people could be an effective anti-diabetic approach.”

Gal3 is secreted by microphages (specialized cells that destroy targeted cells).The researchers pinpointed macrophages coming from bone marrow as the source of the Gal3 that causes insulin resistance. The accumulation of macrophages in the liver cells, fat cells, and skeletal muscle cells, leads to chronic inflammation and insulin resistance. The Gal3 released by macrophages causes insulin resistance by binding to insulin receptors on cells, preventing insulin from attaching. The worst part is that Gal3 also acts as a signaling protein, attracting more macrophages to the area, which then produce even more Gal3.

This discovery although untested on humans yet, could be the beginnings of a cure for type 2 diabetes. As a member of a family plagued by Type 2 diabetes, this study can offer hope to us and millions around the world. My main question/ concern, would be is this a one time procedure? Or a recurring treatment?. Either way, this discovery is a huge step for the diabetic community around the world.

 

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