Mining for MicrobesPublished on Wednesday, January 25, 2023 by
If you are at all interested in the function of the GI tract or if you are a sufferer of IBS, IBD, GERD, or any other GI condition I am sure you have heard of the gut microbiota.
This is also known as the gut microbiome or gut flora; a system of microorganisms that live inside your gastrointestinal system. This fun little universe is anything but little. It is composed of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and a myriad of other organisms that work together with our digestive system when things are going right.
In recent years there has been growing research in this area due to the plethora of information we hold within ourselves. As messy as our GI tract may be, our feces can hold the answers for many chronic conditions that do not exclusively impact the gastrointestinal system. There is an unspoken race between various researchers, pharmaceutical companies, and other entities to discover how to treat a multitude of diseases and conditions. This is what, in the science world, could be referred to as the next gold rush.
What exactly does it mean to mine for microbes?
Microbiologists are “mining” human stool samples to isolate gut bacteria. The hope is to turn what is otherwise waste into new treatments for disorders of the brain and nervous system. Over the past twenty years, there has been a significant amount of exploration around the gut microbiome leading to a better understanding of the gut-brain axis. This knowledge is helping in the development of treatments for depression, anxiety, IBS, and constipation. There is also furthering research to determine the connection between the gut and diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
The gut microbiota is vital to health and communication between the gut and the brain.
Transport can take place via the vagus nerve, neuroendocrine system, immune system, or spinal cord. Comprehending this is important to understand the root of certain disorders and how the use of appropriate microbes can assist in treatment. New studies show microbiota can activate signaling systems in the immune system, neural pathways, and central nervous system. These microorganisms are capable of producing and delivering neuroactive substances that act on the gut-brain axis.
For many years there has been a lack of pharmaceutical development for neuropsychiatric disorders. It only makes sense to consider the possibilities for disorders of the brain and nervous system in light of this new research. With there being so much exploration in the area of microbial therapies for other conditions the concept of developing a new treatment for depression and anxiety has promising potential. Though research and drug development are still in the infancy stages it is anticipated that future treatment can be accomplished with fewer side effects than conventional medications.
There is so much to be found right inside the GI tract, “miners” or researchers continue to discover many complex connections between the gut and the brain. Whether it be a treatment for C. diff infections, an answer to obesity or the latest neuropsychiatric drug, the microbes extracted from our stool hold the key to a multitude of advancements in health and medicine. Who would have thought so much good could come from something so poopy.
- Pennisi, Elizabeth (7 May 2020) Meet the Psychobiome. Science; https://www.science.org/content/article/meet-psychobiome-gut-bacteria-may-alter-how-you-think-feel-and-act
- Alper Evernsel, Mehmet Emin Cetlin (Fall 2015) Gut-Brain Axis: The Role of Gut Microbiota in Psychiatric Disorders. Gale Academic; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4662178/
- Tricklebank, M. D., Robbins, T. W., Simmons, C., & Wong, E. H. F. (2021). Time to re-engage psychiatric drug discovery by strengthening confidence in preclinical psychopharmacology. Psychopharmacology, 238(6), 1417–1436. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-021-05787-x