Last December, researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) announced in Cell that they had taken major steps towards finding a treatment for autism based on modifications in the gut microbiota. While traditional research has dealt with autism as a genetic and brain-related condition, this new study shows that the bacteria found in the gut may contribute to the symptoms related to autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) in a previously unknown way.
Based on experiments in mice, the biologist Sarkis K. Mazmanian and his colleagues showed that in an animal model of autism, rodents’ gastrointestinal tracts were “leaky”, which means toxic material was able to pass through the wall of the intestine to the blood – a characteristic known as increased gut permeability, which has also been observed in some autistic individuals. Read more
Science has been showing for a while now that, in the long term, the saying ‘you are what you eat’ is true, or at least in terms of the composition of our gut microbiota. Until recently, however, we didn’t know how quickly the microbiota – or the hundreds of trillions of bacteria and microorganisms that live in our digestive system – responds to short-term changes in the types of food we eat.
A new study from the universities of Harvard and Duke (USA) recently published in Nature has cleared up any doubts by proving that if we go from an omnivore to an exclusively vegetarian diet or to another diet only containing animal products, the composition and activity of our microbiota (previously called ‘gut flora’) – may quickly change. Read more
Far from being considered as trivial, research into the microbiota has become a key tool for understanding why we get ill and how food influences our wellbeing. This has led the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique – INRA) to create a dedicated space on its website exclusively for the gut microbiota, under the title “a new organ with amazing potential”.
How can we modify the microbiota in order to treat illnesses? Will studying it lead to predictive medicine and preventative nutrition? These are just some of the questions that this online dossier published in French attempts to answer. Inside, scientists maintain that knowing more about the content of the dialogue between the different bacteria in our gut is essential for maintaining good physical and mental health. They also put a special emphasis on explaining the important role of genomics in studying digestive microbes, while highlighting how the ecosystem formed in the gut shortly after birth conditions our health for the rest of our lives. Read more
After the success of the first two editions (held in Evian and Madrid in 2012 and 2013 respectively), experts from all over the world are getting ready to head to Miami (USA) for the 2014 edition of the Gut Microbiota for Health World Summit, to be held on 8 and 9 March. For two days, scientists from a range of different countries will debate issues relating to the hundreds of trillions of bacteria living in our digestive system that constitute our gut microbiota (previously called ‘gut flora’). Experts will analyse how “humans have evolved to depend on the extended physiology and metabolism that the microbiota provides,” as emphasised by Professor Gail Hecht of Loyola University Chicago, chair of the summit’s scientific committee.
One of the core issues that will be discussed during the meeting will be how the microbiota can be modulated through diet, antibiotic or probiotic therapy or microbiota transplantation in order to fight disease or simply improve people’s health and quality of life. The scientists attending the event, organised jointly by the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) and the Gut Microbiota and Health section of the European Society for Neurogastroenterology and Motility (ESNM), will also delve deeper into why the results of research into this emerging field, are not easily transferred to clinical practice. In fact, this is one of the main challenges that need to be overcome in the next few years.
For the summit’s full programme, please visit this website. We will continue to inform you of any new developments as the event approaches.