Grant for research into the relationship between the intestines and the brain


Researchers will investigate how the intestines can be used in the fight against brain disorders

The Brain Foundation is allocating 1 million euros to a study by various UMCG employees led by Prof. Iris Sommer. They will investigate how the intestines can be used in the fight against brain disorders. In the study, the intestines of people with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are manipulated naturally. The aim is to reduce disease-related symptoms, positively influence disease progression and improve mental health. If the research is successful, almost half a million Dutch people with a brain disorder will immediately benefit from this. The grant of 1 million euros is the highest amount that the Brain Foundation has ever awarded to a single research project.

“Gut health greatly affects brain function and in many different ways,” says lead researcher Iris Sommer. “With this research we want to look at how we can optimize the individual intestinal flora in people with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. We then look at what effect this has on the social and personal functioning and well-being of these people. With these results we can ensure that brain patients have fewer disease-related complaints and thus improve the quality of life. Neurologist Teus van Laar is one of the researchers involved: “My dream is that with these results we can eventually develop a personally tuned probiotic to treat a specific brain disorder.”

Mini intestines from stem cells
Among other things, mini intestines are made with nerves from the participants’ stem cells, the expertise of co-researcher Sven van IJzendoorn. This is done to see where things go wrong in the intestinal balance of these people. This is done to see where things go wrong in the intestines. What role does a more permeable intestinal wall (the so-called ‘leaky gut’) play and what is the role of a certain imbalance in intestinal bacteria. This is necessary to assess which specific probiotics should be administered to develop the optimal intestinal flora. Meanwhile, the participants start with an anti-inflammatory diet, put together by Marjo Campmans and MDL doctor Gerard Dijkstra. In a second step, the results from the study of the mini intestines will be used to offer the participants probiotics that are adapted to the personal gut flora of the participants. “By optimizing the intestinal flora, we try to positively influence the disease process and reduce the disease-related symptoms that are common in patients with various brain disorders.”

Brede interdisciplinary expertise
The research was chosen as the winner by an international jury of brain scientists and patients from 29 applications. Merel Heimens Visser, director of the Brain Foundation, is very enthusiastic about the research. “It focuses on multiple brain disorders at the same time and there is a multidisciplinary collaboration between industry, neurology, psychiatry, cell biology, microbiology and dietetics. A large group of people with brain disorders can be helped with this. In addition, the results from this research may also be used for the treatment of other brain disorders. We are therefore very pleased that we can make this research possible. ”

The following UMCG employees participate in the study: neurologist Teus van Laar, cell biologist Sven van IJzendoorn, microbiologists Marco Hermsen and Sahar El Aidy, Gerard Dijkstra and Marjo Campmans of MDL, Barbara van Munster internist geriatric medicine and Benno Haarman and Iris Sommer of psychiatry . They work closely with patient researchers Rob Hagen and Loes Terlouw, Wageningen University, Winclove Probiotics, PlusMinus and Anoiksis.

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Name author and / or edited by: UMCG
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Original title: UMCG research into the relationship between the intestines and the brain has been awarded € 1 million from Brain Foundation
Target audience: Healthcare Professionals, Students
Date: 2020-10-14

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