Researchers believe that gut bacteria may help in the search for solutions to diseases such as depression, autism and Parkinson’s disease
It is in this field that researchers are working to investigate how the trillions of microbes that survive in us and inhabit us – what is called our microbiome – affect our physical health.
Even disorders like depression, autism and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, can somehow be related to these little creatures.
We’ve known for centuries that the way we feel affects our gut – just think about what happens to you before an exam or a job interview
Groups of researchers believe they are on the verge of a revolution that uses “microbes of humor” or “psycho biotics” to improve mental health.
The study that started this concept was carried out at Kyushu University, Japan, in 2004.
Scientists have shown that “germ-free” mice – those who have never had contact with microbes – produced twice the amount of stress hormone when afflicted than normal mice.
The animals were identical, except for microbes. This was considered a strong indication that the difference was a result of their microorganisms. And the work became the first clue to the impact that microbial medicine would have on mental health.
“We all go back to that first article, the first wave of Japanese neuroscientists who studied the microbes,” says Jane Foster, a neuropsychiatrist at McMaster University in Canada. “It was really very important for us that we were studying depression and anxiety.”
(photo drawing on the belly)
Researcher says lifestyles that weaken our gut bacteria, such as a low-fiber diet, can make us more vulnerable
There is now a rich stream of research linking germ-free mice to changes in behavior and even brain structure.
But their completely sterile lives are nothing like the real world. We are constantly coming into contact with microbes in our environment – none of us are free of germs
For doctors, a healthy microbiome is a diverse microbiome, containing a wide variety of different species of microorganisms.
“If you compare someone who is clinically depressed to someone who is healthy, there is a decrease in the diversity of the microbiota (intestinal flora),” says Dinan.
“I am not suggesting that this is the sole cause of depression, but I believe that for many individuals, it contributes to the onset of the disease.”
The researcher also argues that some lifestyles that weaken our intestinal bacteria, such as a low fiber diet, can make us more vulnerable.
Only 43% of all cells in the body, according to scientists, are human cells; the rest are microorganisms
The rest is the microbiome and includes bacteria, viruses, fungi and archaea (organisms that were mistakenly classified as bacteria, but which have different genetic and biochemical characteristics).
This is known as the “second genome” and is also being linked to diseases like Parkinson’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, autism and the functioning of cancer drugs.
- This information was taken from the bbc website
Complementary video of the TEDx Talks channel made by Elaine Hsiao Associate Professor at University of California, Los Angeles