Some Research High Points of 2017
Well, it’s time yet again for the big New Year’s countdown of my favorite biome research stories of the year!!!
- January: The Specific Carbohydrate Diet study at Seattle Children’s Hospital on 10 pediatric patients with Crohn’s disease. After only 12 weeks, 8 of the 10 children were in remission. A mind-blowing result, in such a short time.
- February: By improving the quality of the bacterial microbiome, prebiotics have been shown to improve the quality of sleep. “Given that sufficient NREM sleep and proper nutrition can impact brain development and function and that sleep problems are common in early life, it is possible that a diet rich in prebiotics started in early life could help improve sleep, support the gut microbiota and promote optimal brain/psychological health…”
- March: Researchers at the University of Virginia reversed depressive symptoms in mice by feeding them Lactobacillus. I have written a lot this year about this topic, including earlier this week. I don’t think we can underestimate just how important the biome is to our mental health.
- April: The article in IBD News Today about the FDA report on medicines for Crohn’s Disease, which concluded: “Drugs used to treat Crohn’s disease and other autoimmune disorders are among those with the greatest number of reported side effects filed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration…” In fact, I am going to include my favorite story from November here: researchers discovered that by suppressing the production of tumor necrosis factor via the biologics (i.e. Humera, Remicade, Enbrel, etc., which are the family of medicines most commonly used to treat IBD), they may have inadvertently been suppressing the chemical in the body that fights inflammation. Oops. “Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is a cell signaling protein secreted by immune and other cells that affects cellular activity and controls inflammation and has been found to play a central role in the disease process of IBD. While anti-TNF therapies are part of the medical treatment regimen for many IBD patients, in the majority it is not an effective treatment in the long term. Many patients treated with anti-TNF biologics either do not respond or lose response within a year…Apparently, TNF does not have only pro-inflammatory effect. It has two different receptors, TNFR1 and TNFR2. The latter, when stimulated, ‘…drives a specific pathway that restricts inflammation.’”
- May and June: All the great Parkinson’s research that came out this past year is encouraging: May’s post and June’s post. It looks very likely that Parkinson’s starts with an alteration of the gut microbiota which results in an autoimmune reaction in the brain. I’m waiting to see if the trial on using low dose doxycycline takes place, and if so, what are the results. Fingers crossed.
- July: Definitely the research showing how the same bacteria can have different effects in different environments. Remember that H.pylori, the bacteria associated with ulcers, had no effect on healthy mice, but in those genetically prone to developing IBD, it worsened intestinal inflammation? The authors conclude that, “The study suggests that Helicobacter and similar bacteria labeled as ‘bad’ may, in fact, be neutral or even beneficial, depending on the health of the individual. A person’s level of stress, poor diet or genetics all may influence the good or bad nature of gut bacteria…”
- August: Research out of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, that found a 3 way communication process between gut bacteria, cortisol (the stress hormone) and various brain metabolites that can alter brain development. The research is particularly important in that it may explain the mechanism for how altered gut flora may increase autism risk.
- September: Great research this year on the multiple sclerosis/gut bacteria connection. I loved the twins study done by the National Academy of Science, where they discovered that levels of a particular bacteria was very high in the twin who developed MS…and when they transferred the microbes from the affected twin into mice, 3X the number of mice developed MS as opposed to the ones who received microbes from the healthy donor. The gut bacteria of those with MS actually blocked production of the regulatory (anti-inflammatory) cytokine, IL-10.
- October: There has been huge amounts of exciting research on the detrimental effects of maternal immune activation (MIA) on babies this year. For example, research published in the journal, Nature, shows that alterations in the maternal microbiome , treated using the gut antibiotic, vancomycin, led to normalization of pups that would have likely been born with autism. The question I keep coming back to though is: for all of mankind’s evolutionary history, women have been exposed to inflammatory factors (like viruses) during pregnancy. Why now though is this causing the exponential increase in autism? There is obviously something already wrong with the maternal immune system (i.e. hyper-reactivity). This might explain then, for example, why babies born of mothers who have helminths on board on less prone to allergies, for example. Calm the maternal immune system down, calm the infant’s immune system down. You can also read more about this subject here.
- November: see April above!
- December: I really loved the research showing that lactic acid producing bacteria, such as you’d find in yogurt, seems very effective at preventing the flu virus. Considering how ineffective the flu vaccine is all-too-often (this year, it’s estimated to only be about 10% effective), taking probiotics seems like a pretty good idea.
2017 was a great year for biome research, which is continuing to accelerate at an astounding rate, worldwide. I’m really looking forward to seeing what this new year brings.
I want to wish you all a very happy and healthy 2018!