2018: My Top 10 List of Favorite Stories!

My longer-time readers know that, as we close out another year, I like to take a look back at some of my favorite research stories from these past 12 months.  So here it is…Judy’s “the best of 2018” top 10 list, in chronological order:

  1. Posted on January 5:  Helminths and MS: A Recent Review Paper: “Research was done in the French West Indies over 20 years, which showed a marked increase in the incidence of MS as the population was treated for helminth infection.”  There have been at least 10 studies now, on humans and animals, showing that helminths reduce MS activity and symptoms.
  2. Posted on February 6:  New Information on the Microbiome and Neurodegenerative Diseases:  This was a remarkable discovery and actually, rereading it has me once again stunned.  It appears that pathogenic bacteria produce immune proteins, similar to ours but “abnormal,” which cause our own proteins to also become abnormal.  “A variety of bacteria (including ones found in the mouth) produce amyloid proteins (known as bacterial amyloids) similar to the ones produced naturally by our neurons.  (Remember, as I’ve described in a previous post, that amyloid proteins are thought to be a normal part of the immune system.)  The amyloids produced by gut bacteria can change the structure of other proteins, thereby ‘…increasing the inflammation associated with neurodegeneration.’  For example, E. coli produces amyloid proteins with “abnormal” configurations. In animal models, when E.coli produced these abnormal proteins, ‘…the animals’ own amyloid proteins also became abnormal – a process called cross-seeding.'” This research may have discovered the actual cause of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases!
  3. Posted on February 1:  You Read It Hear First: Protozoa, the Next Generation Probiotic:   “…that protozoa, like helminths, represent an important factor to take into account when studying the gut microbiome , and that their presence – especially considering their long coevolutionary history with humans – may be beneficial.”  Believe, me – I am watching this area of research closely!
  4. Posted on March 20: 2 New Helminth Papers: IBD and Obesity:  Using the benign species of helminth, Hymenolepis diminuta, researchers were able to protect mice  from developing inflammatory bowel disease.  In a second paper, mice were protected from obesity from a high fat diet using a different helminth species:  “The significant inhibitory effect of polygyrus infection on diet-induced obesity in our model supports the idea that helminth parasites, which infect millions of people worldwide, particularly in the developing world, may have beneficial metabolic effects.”
  5. Posted May 3: Boys, Girls, Gut Bacteria…and Inflammation:  This research potentially explains why boys are much more likely to develop autism and early-onset schizophrenia, while adult women are more likely to suffer depression and autoimmune illnesses:  “An international team of researchers have discovered that, in mice at least, immune cells in the brain react differently to changes in gut bacteria…and on whether or not they are fetuses or adults.  The absence of a maternal microbiome dramatically affects the microglia (the immune cells) of the brain in developing fetuses, and much more so in male offspring than female.  Oddly enough this is reversed in adult mice:  adult female mice are far more sensitive than males to a depletion of the microbiome.”
  6. Posted June 12: A Probiotic Vaccine Against Anxiety and PTSD?!:   The amazing research group at the University of Colorado-Boulder (who have done some remarkable work these past few years), showed that by injecting rodents with a particular strain of probiotic, they could boost levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines in the brain and protect them from excessive stress response.  ““The present findings suggest that vaccae enhances immunomodulation in the CNS [central nervous system] and mitigates the neuroinflammatory and behavioral effects of stress…”  Considering that rates of anxiety disorders and depression are at all-time highs in the industrialized world, a solution cannot come too soon.
  7. Posted July 31: A Horror Story: How Leeches Helped Uncover a Terrible Truth About Antibiotic Resistance:  This research rocked my world.  It’s a terrible and upsetting story about how medicinal leeches (used to treat wounds and the like) proved that the antibiotics fed to animals in our food supply have led to the terrifying increase in antibiotic resistant bacterial species.
  8. Posted September 27: Bacteriophages: A Clinical Study:   In reviewing stories from this year, I noticed I wrote about bacteriophages multiple times, which is great news.  It seems like research is progressing on these remarkable viruses that target bacteria and may some day soon be used in lieu of antibiotics, which, as you know, can have many negative side effects.  This post was about a clinical trial done on 36 people with GI issues, testing the effect of a bacteriophage that targets E.coli:  “The phages ‘significantly decreased circulating interleukin 4, a protein often associated with allergic response and inflammatory disorders including dermatitis and rheumatoid arthritis.’  More than that, the gut flora remained stable – which would not have been the case had antibiotics been used, obviously – while levels of E.coli were greatly reduced.  And the treatment was associated with zero side effects.”
  9. Posted October 30:  Leaky Gut and Leaky Brains…and Disease:  This was the most read post of the year.  It’s a discussion of what we currently know on the relationship of dysbiosis, inflammation, leaky gut and how they lead to a leaky blood-brain barrier.  “A dysfunction of the blood brain barrier leading to a ‘leaky brain’ can be linked to various neurological diseases, including autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and schizophrenia.”
  10. Posted November 20: Staying Young, Healthy and Chock Full of Akkermansia: I wrote about this particular probiotic bacteria several times this year and really hope it is available for sale in the not-very-distant future.  In the meantime, there are things you can do now (all of which I am doing personally) to boost your levels.

It really strikes me that research really is progressing in some areas, and that is great news.  Parkinson’s, for just one example – scientists have made tremendous strides this year alone.   I am really excited to see what 2019 brings!  And as always, you Biome Buzzers will be the first to know.


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