The human microbiome has been widely regarded as the next frontier of translational medication, with the overall microbiome industry undergoing tremendous scientific influx in the form of cutting-edge sequencing technology arising from massive investments. While the gut microbiome has garnered immense attention toward its importance in the upkeep of intestinal health, a growing body of research has attempted to explore the less obvious implications of human microbiome modulation.
Crucial attempts made for improving the divergent applications of microbiome in human health has led to insights that uncover the importance of the microbiome for skin health, bone health, and mental health, among others. While primary coverage was previously dominated by gut-related diseases, mental health has significantly grown into a vast research field.
The global rate of disease burden, though primarily being bolstered by the ever-growing severity of chronic diseases, has also incurred tremendous gains from mental, neurological, and substance-abuse disorders. The overwhelming success achieved by altering the microbiome to treat gut-related diseases, has paved the way for scientists to also explore its possibilities in attempting to address the increasing incidence of mental and neurological disorders.
Often termed as the “second brain” of the human body, the gut microbiota has been a subject of significant research all over the world. Evidence leading to its inclusion in a complex network known as the microbiota-gut-brain-axis along the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions of the autonomic nervous system, the enteric nervous system (ENS), and the neuroendocrine and neuroimmune components of the central nervous system (CNS), has been well-documented in the last four years.
The principle neuron within the ANS, known as the vagus nerve, also innervates the stomach, the small intestine, and the proximal portion of the colon. It also works in conjugation with the neural network lining the layers of the gut, the ENS, and the CNS to modulate gastrointestinal functions and has the potential to effectively regulate microbiota diversity and complexity in the gut.
Conversely, local events at the level of the gut including homeostasis, and potential harmful pathogens, are communicated via the ENS and the vagal nerve from the gut to the brain. The brain’s constant need of tryptophan is largely met through the microbiome’s influence in the gut. As a result, correlations have been well-explored between the gut microbiome and mental and neurological conditions such as stress arising from the activation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and age-related cognitive decline, among others.
Figure: Regulation in the Gut-Brain Axis
Source: BIS Research
While the intricacies related to the research with regard to microbiome’s impact on human health, more specifically on mental health, is still at a nascent stage, scientists are conducting large-scale experiments to explore the association between the two. Many researchers are moving ahead with experiments to understand how specific microorganisms might influence mental health and neurological disorders, and thereby look for a possible solution to address the same. Several scientists and nutritionists around the world have recommended the ‘Mediterranean diet’, as the variety of foods included in this diet encourages a diverse and healthy gut microbiome in the human body.
However, the emergence of psychobiotics, which are referred to as microbiome modulating agents for the modulation of mental and neurological health, is anticipated to prove to be a revolutionary concept for the next frontier of translational medicine in the coming future.
About the Writer
Aditya Chatterjee is a Research Analyst in the Precision Medicine team at BIS Research. He is responsible for tracking technological and market developments in the emerging life sciences, bio-pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and digital health technologies. Within these areas, Aditya engages with a range of established and emerging clients to provide go-to-market strategy, product strategy, market access, and predictive analytics. Aditya has received his B.Tech + M.Tech degree in Biotechnology from Amity University, one of the most esteemed and prominent biotechnology institutions in India.