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Gut Microbiomes & Rett: What’s the Connection?

June 25, 2015

People suffering from neurological disorders often have gastrointestinal issues. Rett Syndrome is no exception. Our kids are often tortured by constipation, reflux, gas pains and more. It should come as no surprise that the brain and the gut are connected, after all, the gut is lined with over 100 million neurons. Furthermore, the gut relies on and makes over 30 neurotransmitters, the same ones that are made in the brain. No wonder the gut is often coined “the second brain”.

During the past handful of years the scientific community has begun to appreciate the importance of a person’s microbiome (the population of more than 100 trillion microorganisms that live in our gut, mouth, skin and elsewhere in our bodies) and its influence on our health, including our mental health. Researchers are now exploring whether the microbiome of people with neurological disorders, including neurodevelopmental disorders, is unique. More importantly they are exploring whether manipulating the microbiome can improve neurological disease.

Last year RSRT awarded funding to Ali Khoshnan and Sarkis Mazmanian (whose cutting-edge research on microbiomes in autism is mentioned in the article below) at Caltech to characterize the gut microbiome of Rett mice and to see whether manipulating it with powerful probiotics could improve the symptoms. This work is currently ongoing.

The basis for Dr. Khoshnan’s line of exploration is beautifully explained in a New York Times article published recently. Click the image below to read the article: