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So what drives an Accountant into Science?

Martha Carlin

Martha Carlin is an accountant by profession, but after her husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, she became convinced that what he was eating was part of the problem. Her citizen scientist journey where she delved into a possible connection led to her co-found a company called The BioCollective along with two other partners including a researcher from the University of Chicago.

The BioCollective offers members the opportunity to participate in scientific discovery by providing microbiome samples for researchers. With consent, every sample is divided and sold to academic and commercial microbiome researchers. Phase I of the business is sample collection, preservation and building a base of research customers. Phase II offerings will include the opportunity for members to store a sample while they are healthy for potential use in the restoration of microbial balance in the future. Members share in the revenues generated from the sale of their samples and ultimately in shared discoveries from their research customer base.

Martha says she uses the same skills she applied in accounting and operations management where she applied systems to understand small breaks in a system that might be the cause of issues.

Martha Carlin is one of the NeuroConX 2018 Conference speakers in Charlottetown, July 8-10th in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Martha will also present her story at a public lecture on Sunday, July 8th at 7:00 p.m.

Listen to her TEDx talk and learn more about her fascinating story:


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Why attend NeuroConX?

  • Gain new insights into the microbiome and novel approaches that will strengthen your effectiveness and efficiency at work.
  • Take advantage of the One-To-One NeuroConX Partnering Program to explore new opportunities and potential collaborations with experts and influencers.
  • Cut through the clutter of microbiome research to deliver the best content in the field at NeuroConX.
  • Invest in yourself, your career, and your company by immersing yourself in this unique assembly of cutting-edge scientists and entrepreneurs working in the field.
  • Engage with a perfect balance of academia and industry speakers.
  • Enjoy networking of a different flavour, while tasting what PEI has to offer at the NeuroConX Gala Lobster Dinner.


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Book your accommodations before June 7th, 2018

We have secured a NeuroConX room block which offers delegates a discounted rate on accommodations, but you must book before June 7th. Also, you should know that Prince Edward Island is a popular tourist destination, so it is important to take advantage of our room block to ensure room availability in early July.

Conference accommodations are at Delta Prince Edward Island which is in the heart of historic Charlottetown and on the harbourfront. NeuroConX is held in the Prince Edward Island Convention Centre which is connected to the hotel.

While attending the conference, in the early mornings or at breaks or lunch, you will have the pleasure of stepping outside and taking in the sights and sounds of beautiful Charlottetown harbour. Maybe there will even be a cruise ship in on those days. In the evenings, Charlottetown is a beautiful place to take in the local arts and culture vibe that has the city buzzing in summers or you can stroll along the boardwalk and enjoy a spectacular sunset at Victoria Park.


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NeuroConX 2018 welcomes John Cryan as Keynote Speaker

John Cryan

John F. Cryan, Ph.D.


John F. Cryan
is Professor & Chair, Dept. of Anatomy & Neuroscience, University College Cork and serves on the University’s Governing Body.  He is also a Principal Investigator in the APC Microbiome Institute. He received a B.Sc. (Hons) and PhD from the National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland. He was a visiting fellow at the Dept Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Australia, which was followed by postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA and The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California. He spent four years at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research in Basel Switzerland, as a LabHead, Behavioural Pharmacology prior to joining UCC in 2005. Prof. Cryan’s current research is focused on understanding the interaction between brain, gut & microbiome and how it applies to stress, psychiatric and immune-related disorders at key time-windows across the lifespan. Prof. Cryan has published over 340 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and has a H-index of 73. He is a Senior Editor of Neuropharmacology and of Nutritional Neuroscience. He is on the editorial board of a further 15 journals. He has edited three books including “Microbial Endocrinology: The Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis in Health and Disease” (Springer Press, 2014). He has received numerous awards including UCC Researcher of the Year in 2012; the University of Utrecht Award for Excellence in Pharmaceutical Research in 2013 and being named on the Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researcher list in 2014. He was a TEDMED speaker in Washington in 2014 and is President-elect of the European Behavioural Pharmacology Society.

Prof. Cryan’s current research interests include the neurobiological basis of stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders including depression, anxiety and drug dependence. Moreover, his group is also focused on understanding the interaction between brain, gut & microbiome and how it applies to stress and immune-related disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome and obesity and neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism. He is also interested in applying novel approaches to facilitate drug/siRNA delivery to the brain in vivo.


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Microbiome Therapeutics: Achieving a Healthy Gut Microbiome Through Dietary Supplements

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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 MBT-Candaragut 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.

The Genetic Link Between Parkinson’s Disease and the Gut

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There is growing evidence that the status of the intestinal environment heavily influences CNS function. This gut-brain axis may play an important role in the development of neurological diseases, with Parkinson’s disease (PD) being no exception. One of the most recent pieces of evidence is the finding that several variants in the leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 ( LRRK2 ) gene raise or lower risk, not only for PD, but also for Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disorder. This work, published this month in the journal, Science Translational Medicine, was led by researchers Inga Peter and Judy Cho at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.

These findings further highlight what an important player the gut is in PD pathogenesis. Gastrointestinal dysfunction is prevalent amoung PD patients and occurs early, well before the onset of motor symptoms. A chronic low-grade intestinal inflammation can ultimately lead to neuroinflammation, and neurodegeneration in PD may arise from a cascade of events starting in the gut, according to Malu Tansey, a speaker at NeuroConX 2015. This gut inflammation can also influence synuclein pathology, which appears in both the enteric and central nervous system. Heiko Braak has proposed that synuclein pathology, a key pathological hallmark of PD, actually begins in the gut of PD patients and travels to the brain via the vagus nerve.

Lrrk2

The immune status of the gut is strongly influenced by the gut microbiome, which constitutes 100 trillion microorganisms, the vast majority of which are living in the gut microbiota. In PD patients, the intestinal microbiome is altered and associated in a functional way to clinical phenotype, according to Filip Scheperjans, who is scheduled to present his work at the upcoming NeuroConX 2018 microbiome meeting in July. In a mouse model of PD, PD-derived microbiota enhanced alpha-synuclein-mediated motor dysfunction. These changes in microbiota are believed to be an early event in the development of PD and, with further investigation, may serve as an early biomarker and possibly even a therapeutic target.

The Peter and Cho study identified two variants of the Lrrk2 gene associated with Crohn’s disease. One, ND2081D, was associated with an increased risk for Crohn’s, while N551K appeared to be protective, associating with a lower risk.  The Lrrk2 mutation, G2019S, is the major genetic cause of familial and sporadic PD and has been shown to have deleterious effects through increased kinase activity. Similar elevations in kinase activity have been associated with ND2081D and both variants are able to bump up phosphorylation by about 30 percent in cell-free experiments, suggesting a similar mechanism of action. Association studies show the Lrrk2 variant, ND2081D, increases the risk of both Crohn’s disease and PD, suggesting these two diseases may share risk factors. This is consistent with the increased risk of PD amoung those patients suffering with inflammatory bowel disease.

While the mechansim underlying this co-morbidity requires further exploration, it offers yet another link in the connection between the gut and brain. For more information and cutting edge research on the role of the gut microbiome in brain health and disease, please join us at NeuroConX 2018.


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Gut-Brain Axis a Hot Topic at SFN 2017

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.