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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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Microbiome Therapeutics: Achieving a Healthy Gut Microbiome Through Dietary Supplements


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.

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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.