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Gut bacteria found to reverse autism-related social behavior...

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Time for more gut bacteria transplants?

The mouse study joins a growing set of research that links the gut microbiome to the brain.

Published today in Cell, the study found that the addition of the bacteria Lactobacillus reuteri, which is commonly found in human breast milk, increased the likelihood that previously antisocial mice would interact with each other. Lead author Shelly Buffington told us how the study could translate to the treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental disorders in humans. 

Do you know why the gut microbiome has such an impact on the brain?

Buffington: Communication between gut microbiota and the brain is complex –we don't fully understand it yet, but we do know it's bidirectional and multifaceted. No system works in isolation, there's a significant amount of molecular cross-talk. One of the primary mediators between the gut and the brain is the vagus nerve, which provides two-way communication. Many, but not all, probiotics that alter the brain and behavior in animal models depend on the integrity of the vagus nerve.

Another way gut microbiota can affect brain function is through stimulation of the immune system, altering the levels of both pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines in the bloodstream. Dietary changes, for example, can compromise intestinal barrier integrity creating a route for bacterial products to enter the circulation and induce inflammation. Gut bacteria also generate metabolic byproducts, including short-chain fatty acids, which have been shown to modulate brain function and behavior, as they breakdown dietary constituents. Certain species of gut bacteria even produce neurotransmitters including GABA, serotonin, dopamine, and acetylcholine as well as neurotransmitter precursors. Elucidating the mechanisms by which the gut modulates brain activity and vice versa is an exciting, active area of investigation that holds great promise for identifying novel therapeutic targets

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