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When Gut Bacteria Change Brain Function
Some of the most intriguing work has been done on autism. For decades, doctors, parents, and researchers have noted that about three-quarters of people with autism also have some gastrointestinal abnormality, like digestive issues, food allergies, or gluten sensitivity. This recognition led scientists to examine potential connections between gut microbes and autism; several recent studies have found that autistic people’s microbiome differs significantly from control groups. The California Institute of Technology microbiologist Sarkis Mazmanian has focused on a common species called Bacteroides fragilis, which is seen in smaller quantities in some children with autism. In a paper published two years ago in the journal Cell, Mazmanian and several colleagues fed B. fragilis from humans to mice with symptoms similar to autism. The treatment altered the makeup of the animals’ microbiome, and more importantly, improved their behavior: They became less anxious, communicated more with other mice, and showed less repetitive behavior.

Exactly how the microbes interact with the illness—whether as a trigger or as a shield—remains mostly a mystery. But Mazmanian and his colleagues have identified one possible link: a chemical called 4-ethylphenylsulphate, or 4EPS, which seems to be produced by gut bacteria. They’ve found that mice with symptoms of autism have blood levels of 4EPS more than 40 times higher than other mice. The link between 4EPS levels and the brain isn’t clear, but when the animals were injected with the compound, they developed autism-like symptoms.

Some subjects were fed 5.5 grams of a powdered carbohydrate known as galactooligosaccharide, or GOS, while others were given a placebo. Previous studies in mice by the same scientists had shown that this carb fostered growth of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria; the mice with more of these microbes also had increased levels of several neurotransmitters that affect anxiety, including one called brain-derived neurotrophic factor.

In this experiment, subjects who ingested GOS showed lower levels of a key stress hormone, cortisol, and in a test involving a series of words flashed quickly on a screen, the GOS group also focused more on positive information and less on negative.

Scientists have found that gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA, all of which play a key role in mood (many antidepressants increase levels of these same compounds). Certain organisms also affect how people metabolize these compounds, effectively regulating the amount that circulates in the blood and brain. Gut bacteria may also generate other neuroactive chemicals, including one called butyrate, that have been linked to reduced anxiety and depression. Cryan and others have also shown that some microbes can activate the vagus nerve, the main line of communication between the gut and the brain. In addition, the microbiome is intertwined with the immune system, which itself influences mood and behavior.
microbiology  nutrition  mentalHealth  autism  health 
2 days ago by campylobacter
RT : I made a birthday card for a consultant microbiologist
microbiology  medicine  from twitter
10 days ago by marramgrass
Syrian Refugee And German Scientist Team Up For Unusual Research : NPR
Chance meets determination: #Syrian #refugee microbiologist gets job in Leipzig research lab through chance meeting at church #Germany
syria  refugee  germany  leipzig  microbiology  mine  metal  extraction  aleppo  church  recovery  research  raft  greece  19eyz  bullsi 
11 days ago by csrollyson
‘Pit of Infection’: A Border Town’s Crisis Has Nothing to Do With Migrants - The New York Times
Noxious sewage contaminated with feces, industrial chemicals and other raw waste crosses the border through the binational New River.
5 weeks ago by casfindad
Home EPHM Lab, Monash University, Australia
Welcome to the webpage of the Environmental and Public Health Microbiology Laboratory, located in the Civil Engineering Department at Monash University, Clayton, Australia. The laboratory was officially opened in 2009 by Professor Edwina Cornish, and has grown from just two researchers to more than 20 in the past 8 years.
microbiology  science  health  environment  melbourne  victoria  research 
8 weeks ago by ssorc
SnapGene Viewer | Free software for plasmid mapping, primer design, and restriction site analysis
SnapGene Viewer is revolutionary software that allows molecular biologists to create, browse, and share richly annotated DNA sequence files up to 1 Gbp in length.
biology  software  DNA  microbiology  molecular 
11 weeks ago by sprague
A Single Cell Hints at a Solution to the Biggest Problem in Computer Science
Keio University's solution is different from the typical algorithmic solutions produced by other researchers, because the scientists used an amoeba. Specifically, the Physarum polycephalum slime mold. Physarum polycephalum is a very simple organism that does two things: it moves toward food and it moves away from light. Millions of years of evolution has made Physarum abnormally efficient at both of these things.

The Keio University researchers used this efficiency to build a device to solve the traveling salesman problem. They set the amoeba in a special chamber filled with channels, and at the end of each channel the researchers placed some food. Instinctively, the amoeba would extend tendrils into the channels to try and get the food. When it does that, however, it triggers lights to go off in other channels.
microbiology  mathematics 
12 weeks ago by campylobacter

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