Gut microbiota play a significant role in regulating the bidirectional communication within what has come to be known as the gut-brain axis. Communication between the gut and the brain can occur via direct neuronal communication, endocrine signaling mediators or through the immune system. Changes in microbial compositions can influence behaviour and cognition, while changes in the nervous system can indirectly influence the gut microbiome, forming the bi-directional communication that defines the gut-brain axis. Such shifts in gut microbiome composition have been associated with various neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative conditions and can precede or occur during, the course of their development.
These recent findings suggest that manipulating the gut microbiota may offer a novel approach to altering brain function and treating neurological disease. Microbiome Therapeutics, founded in 2009 as NuMe Health by John Elstrott, Dale Pfrost, and Mark Heiman, is developing and marketing novel therapeutics to promote a healthy microbiome. These microbiome modulators deliver specific nutrients to the gastrointestinal microbiome to support a healthy diversity of microbiota. Their blend of prebiotics is comprised of natural products derived from food and is designed to increase the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), prime the gastrointestinal immune system, and reduce intestinal permeability. BiomeBlissTM will be sold as a dietary supplement and is expected to come out later this year.
While BiomeBliss was originally formulated to target blood sugar, satiety and regularity, the potential application to brain health is all too obvious. These SCFAs are microbial metabolites that modulate microglia activation, stimulating immune responses and controlling inflammation. Changes in microbiome composition, such as those identified in neurodegenerative diseases result in a reduction in health promoting neuroactive SCFAs. This decrease in SCFA concentration can contribute to gut leakiness and inflammatory responses, characteristic of these diseases. This, in turn, may drive neuroinflammation, increase oxidative stress, and promote protein aggregation. In a recent paper, Dr. Giulio Maria Pasinetti, a previous NeuroConX speaker, reported that the generation of select SCFAs can interfere with the aggregation of abnormal misfolded proteins in the brain in neurodegenerative diseases. For an overview of the microbiome in neurological disease, you can check out a recent review by Dr. Silke Appel-Cresswell, who will be speaking at NeuroConX 2018.
Dr. Mark Heiman, of Microbiome Therapeutics will be just one of the microbiome companies presenting at our upcoming NeuroConX meeting, this July. Join Dr. Heiman and many others to discuss more about how the gut microbiome influences brain health, at NeuroConX 2018.