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Gut Bacteria ‘Boost’ Cancer Therapy

Bacteria living in the murky depths of the digestive system seem to influence whether tumours shrink during cancer therapy, say French and US researchers.

They tested the microbiome – the collection of microscopic species that live in us – in cancer patients.
Two studies, in the journal Science, linked specific species and the overall diversity of the microbiome to the effectiveness of immunotherapy drugs.

Experts said the results were fascinating and held a lot of promise.

Our bodies are home to trillions of micro-organisms and the relationship between “us” and “them” goes far beyond infectious diseases.

The microbiome is involved in digestion, protection from infection and regulating the immune system.

  • Gut bugs ‘help prevent allergies’
  • Parkinson’s disease ‘may start in gut’

Both studies were on patients receiving immunotherapy, which boosts the body’s own defences to fight tumours.

It does not work in every patient, but in some cases it can clear even terminal cancer.

Survival

One study, at the Gustave Roussy Cancer Campus in Paris, looked at 249 patients with lung or kidney cancer.

They showed those who had taken antibiotics, such as for dental infection, damaged their microbiome and were more likely to see tumours grow while on immunotherapy.

One species of bacteria in particular, Akkermansia muciniphila, was in 69% of patients that did respond compared with just a third of those who did not.

Boosting levels of A. muciniphila in mice seemed to also boost their response to immunotherapy.
Meanwhile, at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 112 patients with advanced melanoma had their microbiome analysed.

Those that responded to therapy tended to have a richer, more diverse microbiome than those that did not.

And they had different bacteria too. High levels of Faecalibacterium and Clostridiales appeared to be beneficial, while Bacteroidales species were bad news in the study.

‘Game-changing’

Tissues samples showed there were more cancer-killing immune cells in the tumour of people with the beneficial bacteria.

The team then performed a trans-poo-sion, a transplant of faecal matter, from people to mice with melanoma.

Mice given bacteria from patients with the “good” mix of bacteria had slower-growing tumours than mice given “bad” bacteria.

Dr Jennifer Wargo, from Texas, told the BBC: “If you disrupt a patient’s microbiome you may impair their ability to respond to cancer treatment.”
She is planning clinical trials aimed at altering the microbiome in tandem with cancer treatment.
She said: “Our hypothesis is if we change to a more favourable microbiome, you just may be able to make patients respond better.
“The microbiome is game-changing, not just cancer but for overall health, it’s definitely going to be a major player.”

Promising

Mark Fielder, president of the Society for Applied Microbiology and professor of medical biology at Kingston University, said the study showed the importance of understanding the micro-organisms that call our bodies home.

He told the BBC: “It’s really interesting and holds a lot of promise, we need to do more work but there are exciting glimmers here in treating some difficult diseases.
“Some claim the microbiome is the answer to everything, I don’t think that’s the case.
“But once we understand more, it could be that microbiome manipulation is important in changing people’s health.”

Dr Emma Smith from Cancer Research UK, said: “It’s fascinating.

“One of the big challenges for using immunotherapies to treat cancer is understanding which patients will respond, and this research is a step towards helping doctors to identify these people.”

By James Gallagher    Health and science correspondent, BBC News    3 November 2017 
 
source: www.bbc.com
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Gut Microbes Linked To Brain Structure In People With Irritable Bowel Syndrome

 Summary:
Research shows for the first time an association between the gut microbiota and the brain regions involved in the processing of sensory information from their bodies. Also, the researchers gained insight into the connections among childhood trauma, brain development and gut microbiome composition.

A new study by researchers at UCLA has revealed two key findings for people with irritable bowel syndrome about the relationship between the microorganisms that live in the gut and the brain.

For people with IBS research shows for the first time that there is an association between the gut microbiota and the brain regions involved in the processing of sensory information from their bodies. The results suggest that signals generated by the brain can influence the composition of microbes residing in the intestine and that the chemicals in the gut can shape the human brain’s structure.

Additionally, the researchers gained insight into the connections among childhood trauma, brain development and the composition of the gut microbiome.

Previous studies performed in mice have demonstrated effects of gut microbiota on brain function and behavior, as well as the influence of the brain on the composition of microbes in the gut. However, to date, only one study performed in human subjects has confirmed the translatability of such findings to the human brain.

Studies have also reported evidence for alterations in the composition of gut microbiota in people with irritable bowel syndrome, but there has been little consistency among studies regarding the specific microbial alterations and the relationship of such alterations with the cardinal symptoms of IBS, recurring abdominal pain and altered bowel habits.

In relation to a person’s history with childhood trauma, it has been shown to be associated with structural and functional brain changes; trauma in young children has also been shown to alter gut microbial composition. But how they are related has been unknown.

The UCLA researchers collected behavioral and clinical measures, stool samples and structural brain images from 29 adults diagnosed with IBS, and 23 healthy control subjects. They used DNA sequencing and various mathematical approaches to quantify composition, abundance and diversity of the gut microbiota. They also estimated the microbial gene content and gene products of the stool samples. Then the researchers cross-referenced these gut microbial measures with structural features of the brain.

Based on the composition of the microbes in the gut, the samples from those diagnosed with IBS clustered into two subgroups. One group was indistinguishable from the healthy control subjects, while the other differed. Those in the group with an altered gut microbiota had more history of early life trauma and longer duration of IBS symptoms.

The two groups also displayed differences in brain structure.

Analysis of a person’s gut microbiota may become a routine screening test for people with IBS in clinical practice, and in the future, therapies such as certain diets and probiotics may become personalized based on an individual’s gut microbial profile. At the same time, subgroups of people with IBS distinguished by brain and microbial signatures may show different responsiveness to brain-directed therapies such as mindfulness-based stress reduction, cognitive behavioral therapy and targeted drugs.

A history of early life trauma has been shown to be associated with structural and functional brain changes and to alter gut microbial composition. It is possible that the signals the gut and its microbes get from the brain of an individual with a history of childhood trauma may lead to lifelong changes in the gut microbiome. These alterations in the gut microbiota may feed back into sensory brain regions, altering the sensitivity to gut stimuli, a hallmark of people with IBS.

 
Story Source:
Materials provided by University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
 
Journal Reference:
Jennifer S. Labus, Emily B. Hollister, Jonathan Jacobs, Kyleigh Kirbach, Numan Oezguen, Arpana Gupta, Jonathan Acosta, Ruth Ann Luna, Kjersti Aagaard, James Versalovic, Tor Savidge, Elaine Hsiao, Kirsten Tillisch, Emeran A. Mayer. Differences in gut microbial composition correlate with regional brain volumes in irritable bowel syndrome. Microbiome, 2017; 5 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s40168-017-0260-z
 
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences.
“Gut microbes linked to brain structure in people with irritable bowel syndrome.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 May 2017.
 
source:  University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences    www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170505151656.htm


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Are Gut Bacteria Linked to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Intestinal bacteria yield clues to the mysterious ailment, researchers say

Scientists have found differences in the gut bacteria of people with chronic fatigue syndrome versus their healthy peers.

The finding is among the first to link abnormalities in the makeup of gut bacteria – the “microbiome” – and chronic fatigue, a mysterious and debilitating malady.

Whether these differences are merely a sign of chronic fatigue syndrome or an underlying cause isn’t clear, said study lead author Dr. W. Ian Lipkin.

But they could be tied to disease severity, said Lipkin. He is director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

Chronic fatigue syndrome affects about 1 million Americans – women more often than men, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People with the syndrome typically complain of extreme fatigue after exertion, muscle and joint pain, thinking difficulty and sleep problems. But only about 20 percent of people who have the syndrome actually know it, because it’s difficult to diagnose, the CDC notes.

Scientists have begun to look to the microbiome for answers to a host of medical mysteries.

Your microbiome is the community of bacteria living on and in your body. “In this case, we are describing the bacteria in your intestines,” said Lipkin.

“These bacteria influence how we feel, how our immune systems respond to our environment and our resistance to disease,” he added.

To explore a potential association between chronic fatigue syndrome and an imbalance in the gut environment, researchers recruited 50 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and 50 healthy peers from four U.S. cities. Most were women, average age 51.

Fecal samples from all participants were genetically broken down to identify the types and quantity of bacteria present. Blood samples were also analyzed.

What the investigation found is that people with chronic fatigue syndrome “have different bacteria in their intestines than healthier people,” Lipkin said.

Specifically, the research team observed that chronic fatigue patients – but not the healthy participants – had high quantities of several intestinal bacteria species.

Also, among people with chronic fatigue syndrome, investigators found that bacterial composition appeared to shift depending on disease severity.

Both associations held up regardless of whether or not a person with chronic fatigue syndrome also had irritable bowel syndrome. The two often go hand-in-hand.

“This study is an early but important step toward determining the composition of a healthy microbiome,” said Lipkin. Ultimately, the findings may aid diagnoses and point to new treatments targeting subtypes of chronic fatigue, he and his colleagues suggested.

“As the work continues,” Lipkin added, “we anticipate that physicians will be able to make specific recommendations that influence the composition of our microbiomes, and reduce some symptoms of [chronic fatigue syndrome].”

Currently, there are no approved treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome in the United States.

However, one doctor cautioned that much more research is needed first.

There is unlikely to be a single explanation or “silver bullet” for the syndrome, said Dr. Jim Pagel. He is an associate clinical professor with the University of Colorado Medical School System.

Pagel noted that microbiome abnormalities might reflect just one “secondary” factor related to, but not causing, chronic fatigue syndrome. Numerous factors could be involved.

The bottom-line: “We have only a very limited understanding as to what makes up an appropriate diet and the associations of gastrointestinal flora with illness,” said Pagel. “There is far more we don’t know than what we do know.”

The findings were published online April 26 in the journal Microbiome.

By Alan Mozes     HealthDay Reporter    THURSDAY,  April 27, 2017    HealthDay News
Sources: W. Ian Lipkin, M.D., professor, epidemiology, and director, Center for Infection and Immunity, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York City; Jim Pagel, M.D., associate clinical professor, University of Colorado Medical School System, and director, Sleep Disorders Center of Southern Colorado, Pueblo, Colo.; April 26, 2017, Microbiome, online
source: www.webmd.com


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Can Gut Bacteria Affect Alzheimer’s Disease?

New research finds the microbes in your gut may play a major role in escalating the chronic brain disease.

A raft of recent studies has shown that the microbiome is a factor in the development of obesity, type 2 diabetes, asthma, and cardiovascular disease. Now, we can add Alzheimer’s disease to the list.

A new study, published in Scientific Reports, has shown that certain gut microbiota may speed up the development of the chronic brain disease.

Researchers studied both healthy and diseased mice and found that those with Alzheimer’s had a different composition of gut bacterium. Healthy mice also had a lower level of beta-amyloid plaque in their brains than the mice with Alzheimer’s. (Beta-amyloid plaques are the lumps of protein fragments that form at nerve fibers, creating tangles leading to neuroinflammation.)

To further test the connection between intestinal flora and Alzheimer’s disease, researchers placed microbes from mice suffering from Alzheimer’s into germ-free mice. The result? The germ-free mice given the gut microbes from the mice with Alzheimer’s developed more beta-amyloid brain plaques than those who received bacteria from healthy mice.

“The results mean that we can now begin researching ways to prevent the disease and delay the onset,” researcher Frida Fåk Hållenius, PhD, of Sweden’s Lund University Food for Health Science Centre, says in a press release. “We consider this to be a major breakthrough as we used to only be able to give symptom-relieving antiretroviral drugs.”

gut-brain
‘TAKE CARE OF YOUR MICROBIOME, IT’LL TAKE CARE OF YOU’
The findings open the door to testing new preventive and therapeutic strategies — such as dietary modification — on bacteria’s role in Alzheimer’s disease development.

In November 2016, for example, Iranian researchers found that probiotics helped improve memory in people suffering from severe Alzheimer’s disease. Although the sample size was small (60 participants) and the study lasted only 12 weeks, the results indicate that eating microbiome-boosting foods may improve memory in those who are cognitively impaired.

“If you take care of your microbiome, it’ll take care of you — and that’s all the way up to your brain,” says leading Alzheimer’s researcher Rudolph Tanzi, PhD.

To reduce your Alzheimer’s risk, Tanzi advises avoiding eating processed and other inflammation-promoting foods, which negatively affect gut microbial communities, and focusing on real food.

HEIDI WACHTER · FEB 16, 2017


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Are Prebiotics the Stress Reliever You Never Heard Of?

Before you spend another night tossing and turning from stress, a new study shows that the secret to peaceful Z’s starts with what you’re eating.

There are traditional methods for coping with stress, from relaxing in the tub to keeping a bullet journal, but according to the newest study, an effective way to bounce back from stress is to get your fill of foods rich in prebiotics.

While probiotics—those friendly gut bugs—are often lauded for their digestive benefits, prebiotics are less understood. WebMD defines prebiotics as “good carbohydrates that cannot be digested by the human body. They are food for probiotics, and their primary benefit along with probiotics is to help your body maintain a healthy digestive system.”

Researchers from the University of Colorado discovered that regular amounts of prebiotics in your diet can help promote a better balance of gut bacteria and help the body recover following a stressful event. Their study, which appeared in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, found that including prebiotics—from sources like asparagus, oatmeal, and legumes such as lentils and chickpeas—help our bodies resume normal sleeping patterns following a particularly stressful event.

“Acute stress can disrupt the gut microbiome,” Agnieszka Mika, MD, a lead author of the study told sciencedaily.com. “We wanted to test if a diet rich in prebiotics would increase beneficial bacteria as well as protect gut microbes from stress-induced disruptions. We also wanted to look at the effects of prebiotics on the recovery of normal sleep patterns, since they tend to be disrupted after stressful events.”

For the study, test rats were given a diet of prebiotics for several weeks prior to a stressful test condition. They were then compared against control rats that didn’t eat a prebiotic-rich diet. Researchers found that the rats that ate prebiotic foods prior to the stressful event didn’t demonstrate any stress-induced disruption in their gut and were able to resume healthier sleep patterns more quickly than the rats on the non-prebiotic diet.

Although the study was conducted on rats, the researchers say the results are applicable for humans. According to the study’s lead author, Robert Thompson, MD, “the stressor the rats received was the equivalent of a single intense acute stressful event for humans, such as a car accident or the death of a loved one.”

No adverse effects have been reported from the use of prebiotics, and with the non-digestible fiber found widely in many plants, breast milk and as commercial supplements, Dr. Mika encourages us to get our fill. These are the best foods you can eat to boost your good gut bacteria, because both probiotics and prebiotics are critical to a healthy microbiome, or gut bug community.

BY LAUREN REARICK
source: www.rd.com
Garlic

7 Foods to Boost Your Good Gut Bacteria (That Aren’t Yogurt)

One of the most astonishing recent health discoveries is how much our gut microbiome impacts our health. But when it comes to growing good gut bacteria you have plenty of delicious probiotic foods to choose from.

Cold potatoes

Cold potatoes—that is, taters that have been washed, cooked, and cooled—are one of the best sources of resistant starch. Resistant starch is a prebiotic, a type of indigestible carbohydrate that acts like food for gut bacteria, encouraging the good bugs to grow and flourish. While resistant starch has many health benefits, one of its most promising aspects is its ability to increase insulin sensitivity, helping people reduce diabetes risk and even lose weight.

Kefir

Think of kefir as yogurt’s tangier but more powerful cousin. The drink is made by seeding milk with kefir “grains,” which are tiny bundles of yeast and bacteria, and letting it sit. Over time the grains ferment the milk, producing a tart drink full of probiotics, or healthy bacteria. A 2013 study found that kefir can help relieve gastrointestinal problems and allergies and may even have a positive effect on heart health. One caveat however: Many commercial kefir drinks contain very high amounts of added sugar, which feeds bad bacteria in your gut, so make sure you read the label and ingredient list. These are sneaky signs you might be eating too much sugar.

Green bananas

Most people go out of their way to avoid green bananas but there’s good news for people who just can’t wait until they’re fully ripe. Green bananas are a rich source of prebiotics, particularly resistant starch. They also have a healthy dose of both soluble and insoluble fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The combo provides a feast for good gut bacteria and helps protect your heart and bones. Can’t get past the taste? Try them boiled or fried or sub some green banana flour in place of regular flour. Here’s how sniffing bananas could help you lose weight.

Kimchi

Don’t let the name throw you—this Korean dish is not only tasty but a health superstar. Kimchi is made by fermenting vegetables with probiotic lactic acid bacteria, which gives it the same boost of healthy bacteria as other fermented foods, like yogurt. Plus, since it’s made from cruciferous veggies like bok choy and cabbage along with healthy spices like garlic and peppers, it provides a mega dose of vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. One study found that kimchi helps protect against cancer, obesity, and constipation while lowering cholesterol, boosting brain and immune function, and even providing some anti-aging benefits. Here are other proven cancer-fighting foods.

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is kimchi’s German cousin, a lacto-fermented brine filled with cabbage, carrots, and spices—not to mention plenty of healthy bacteria for your gut. And not only does it have similar benefits as other fermented veggies but a study done by William & Mary college found that eating a daily serving of sauerkraut helped significantly reduce social anxiety. The researchers believe it’s because more than 80 percent of the calming hormone, serotonin, is manufactured in our guts (not our brains!) and the good bacteria boosted serotonin production.

Chocolate

Yes, it’s true! Chocolate can help encourage the growth of healthy gut bacteria. A study published in the International Journal of Food Biology found that combining chocolate with probiotics magnified the benefits of both. The chocolate protected the bacteria as it passed through the stomach, making sure it was absorbed in the small intestine while the bacteria helped the body properly digest the chocolate, enabling it to extract all the micronutrients and antioxidants. Talk about a win/win! Here are more healthy reasons to eat chocolate.

Garlic

Everyone’s favorite way to get bad breath also has powerful gut bacteria-boosting properties. Garlic is not only Americans’ number-one favorite spice (after salt) but is also beloved by bacteria thanks to its rich supply of prebiotics, their preferred food. Raw garlic is the best source but for those who don’t like the burn (or who feel like kissing someone later); cooked garlic also works well—so well in fact that a study published in Food Science and Human Wellness found that eating it is an effective way to prevent many gastrointestinal illnesses. Here are more surprising benefits of garlic. Feeling motivated? Try these seven other foods that also boost gut health.

BY CHARLOTTE HILTON ANDERSEN
source: www.rd.com


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A Gut Makeover for the New Year

If you’re making resolutions for a healthier new year, consider a gut makeover. Refashioning the community of bacteria and other microbes living in your intestinal tract, collectively known as the gut microbiome, could be a good long-term investment in your health.

Trillions of microbial cells inhabit the human body, outnumbering human cells by 10 to one according to some estimates, and growing evidence suggests that the rich array of intestinal microbiota helps us process nutrients in the foods we eat, bolsters the immune system and does all sorts of odd jobs that promote sound health. A diminished microbial ecosystem, on the other hand, is believed to have consequences that extend far beyond the intestinal tract, affecting everything from allergies and inflammation, metabolic diseases like diabetes and obesity, even mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.

Much of the composition of the microbiome is established early in life, shaped by forces like your genetics and whether you were breast-fed or bottle-fed. Microbial diversity may be further undermined by the typical high-calorie American diet, rich in sugar, meats and processed foods. But a new study in mice and people adds to evidence that suggests you can take steps to enrich your gut microbiota. Changing your diet to one containing a variety of plant-based foods, the new research suggests, may be crucial to achieving a healthier microbiome.

Altering your microbiome, however, may not be easy, and nobody knows how long it might take. That’s because the ecosystem already established in your gut determines how it absorbs and processes nutrients. So if the microbial community in your gut has been shaped by a daily diet of cheeseburgers and pepperoni pizza, for example, it won’t respond as quickly to a healthy diet as a gut shaped by vegetables and fruits that has more varied microbiota to begin with.

“The nutritional value of food is influenced in part by the microbial community that encounters that food,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, the senior author of the new paper and director of the Center for Genome Science and Systems Biology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Nutritional components of a healthy diet have to be viewed from “the inside out,” he said, “not just the outside in.”

One of the questions the study set out to answer was how individuals with different diets respond when they try to improve their eating habits. The scientists harvested gut bacteria from humans, transplanted them into mice bred under sterile conditions, and then fed the mice either American-style or plant-based diets. The scientists then analyzed changes in the mice’s microbial communities.

Of interest, the scientists harvested the gut bacteria from people who followed sharply different diets. One group ate a fairly typical American diet, consuming about 3,000 calories a day, high in animal proteins with few fruits and vegetables. Some of their favorite foods were processed cheese, pepperoni and lunch meats.

love-your-gut

The other group consisted of people who were devotees of calorie restriction. They ate less than 1,800 calories a day and had meticulously tracked what they ate for at least two years, sticking to a mostly plant-based diet and consuming far less animal protein than the other group, a third fewer carbohydrates and only half the fat.

This calorie-restricted group, the researchers found, had a far richer and more diverse microbial community in the gut than those eating a typical American diet. They also carried several strains of “good” bacteria, known to promote health, that are unique to their plant-based diet. “Their choices as adults dramatically influenced their gut community,” said Nicholas W. Griffin of Washington University, the paper’s lead author.

The study, published in Cell Host & Microbe, is not the first to report findings suggesting dietary shifts can induce persistent changes in a gut microbial community, said Dr. David A. Relman, a professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology at Stanford University, who was not involved in the current research. He noted that other studies had found even more profound effects.

After the human microbiota was transplanted into the mice, the mice got to eat either like typical Americans or like the calorie restrictors.

Mice that had a microbiota conditioned by the typical American diet had a weaker response to the plant-based diet. Their microbial communities didn’t increase and diversify as much. “They all responded in a predictable direction, but with not as great a magnitude,” said Dr. Griffin.

Another aspect of the study suggests the company you keep may also enrich your gut microbiota — at least in mice. At first the animals were kept in separate cages. Then, when they were housed together, the microbes from the communities conditioned by plant diets made their way into the American-diet microbiome.

It’s not clear how that translates to humans: Mice eat one another’s droppings when they live together, so they easily share the bacterial wealth. Still, it’s possible humans have other ways of sharing bacteria, Dr. Griffin said. “We know from previous work and other studies that spouses who live together will develop microbial communities that are similar to each other,” he said.

Perhaps the best way to cultivate a healthier microbiome is to eat more fiber by consuming more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts or seeds, said Meghan Jardine, a registered dietitian who was not involved in the current study but has published articles on promoting a healthy microbiota. (She is also affiliated with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which recommends a plant-based diet.) She urges people to aim for 40 to 50 grams of fiber daily, well above levels recommended by most dietary guidelines.

“When you look at populations that eat real food that’s high in fiber, and more plant-based foods, you’re going to see they have a more robust microbiota, with more genetic diversity, healthier species and fewer pathogenic bacteria living in the gut,” she said.

By RONI CARYN RABIN     DEC. 29, 2016