Microbiome and Major Depression (i.e. Bacteria and Mood)

probiotics

Embryos develop from a small ball of cells to a flat sheet of cells. This sheet rolls up into a tube. One end of the tube becomes the brain, the other end becomes the digestive tract.

There is communication along this brain-gut axis via nerves, hormones and the immune system (via the blood). And I’m probably not the only person who asked out loud for my stomach to stop growling, so there’s a cognitive connection too :).

There is some evidence that our intestinal micro biota, the bacteria that we harbor that aids in digestion, actually communicates with our brain via the immune system. Scientists are also investigating the hypothesis that modification of microbial ecology, for example by supplements containing microbial species (probiotics), may be used therapeutically to modify stress responses and symptoms of anxiety and depression.

A recent study from the Netherlands reported the first evidence that the intake of probiotics may help reduce negative thoughts associated with sad mood and suggest that probiotics supplementation warrants further research as a potential preventive strategy for depression.

The study was small, 40 people total for cases and controls, but it certainly works as a pilot study for more research.

The study was published with open access- you can read it here:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159115000884

This also adds to the evidence that chocolate is good for us! Also, probiotics do not have to be taken as supplements. Besides chocolate, probiotics are found in fermented foods such as kim chi, and in yogurt.

http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/features/what-are-probiotics

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How Human Are We?

Demon

In one of my favorite KISS songs, “Almost Human”, Gene Simmons sings “I’m almost human…..I’m almost a MAN”.

Gene Simmons has always been a bit of an oddity. Born Chaim Witz, he emigrated to the U.S. from Israel at age eight, learned to speak English and changed his name to Eugene Klein.  He later became a sixth grade teacher before winding up pounding the bass and wearing face paint as the Demon in KISS, a hard rock band . A master of marketing, Gene Simmons’ current net worth is 300 million dollars (according to celebritynetworth.com).

So it should come to no surprise to anyone, that after all these years, Gene Simmons was right about being almost human.

Yesterday I went to the Personalized Medicine 6.0 conference, and learned that we are only 10% human, at least in our cell to bacteria ratio.  Turns out we contain about 3 pounds of bacteria- cells are that are much smaller than our own. Bacteria cells outnumber ours 10 to 1. So we are 90% bacteria, 10% human.

But I also learned some useful information.  Cancer is now being looked at as a “chronic disease”, similar to HIV infection- something we will live with and manage medically.  Genomic Health’s Oncotype DX test has changed the way chemotherapy is prescribed, particularly in breast cancer, and soon for bone and prostate cancer. There is a combination drug cocktail coming out that targets Herceptin resistant cells…and allows women to keep their hair (Her3 target). Exciting times.

Personalized medicine is also being referred to as Precision Medicine (doctors take offense at Personalized Medicine as they feel they’ve been doing that for years).  It is likely that Precision Medicine will include our genome, a toxicity screen (which detects substances like DDT in the body) and metabolic assessment.  I believe this “Integrated Omics” approach will be the best way to treat multifactorial disorders like schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

One scientist suggested that by the end of the decade, getting your complete genome sequenced will cost $33. I’d take odds on this price within the next five years.  I just wonder how Gene Simmons is going to cash in on this.

Are we not men? Link to NY times article about bacteria:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/14/health/human-microbiome-project-decodes-our-100-trillion-good-bacteria.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0