Gut-Brain Axis a Hot Topic at SFN 2017

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The gut-brain connection was featured prominently at this year’s Society for Neuroscience conference in Washington, DC (Nov. 11-15), with over 539 presentations related to the gut and its influence on the brain, including neurodevelopment, autism, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease. Even the Presidential Special Symposium, presented by Dr. Jeff Gordon, touched on the topic of gut microbiota.

Some of these presentations were highlighted in The Scientist, a popular life science news magazine. In a recent issue, they featured the work of five key researchers working on gut-brain connections in neurodegenerative diseases. Among those was Dr. Erwan Bezard, one of our NeuroConX 2015 speakers, who elegantly demonstrated the functional significance of the gut-brain connection by transplanting Lewy bodies from Parkinson’s patients into the gut of non-human primates triggered parkinsonian pathology in the brain and vice versa.

Dr. Doris Doudet , from the University of British Columbia, was another highlighted researcher. She has been collaborating with Dr. Jackalina Van Kampen, NeuroConX organizing committee chair, to characterize a novel progressive rodent model of Parkinson’s disease based on oral consumption of β-sitosterol glycoside (BSSG). They have found an increase in markers of inflammation in the gut of these animals. This is consistent with microbiome changes also observed following BSSG intoxication. Doudet suggests that gastrointestinal status may serve as a window to brain health. More on this work will be presented at our upcoming NeuroConX 2018 meeting.

Other highlighted researchers included Ishita Parikh , of the University of Kentucky, who presented work comparing the microbiomes of mice expressing different variants of the APOE gene, Harpreet Kaur, of the University of North Dakota, who demonstrated the beneficial effects of probiotics in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, and  Lap Ho, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who discussed evidence that parkinsonian pathology may be influenced by diet through interactions with the gut microbiome.

From these brief highlights, it’s apparent that the gut influences brain health in a multi-faceted manner, opening up a multitude of opportunities for novel therapeutic and diagnostic approaches to neurodegenerative diseases.

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