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Prebiotics affect relationship between gut and brain

27 February 2014 | News | By Bureau Report

Clasado - a prebiotic manufacturer from a small European country Malta - and University of Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry have announced the results of pre-clinical research that demonstrates prebiotics affect the relationship between the gut and the brain. This collaborative research is expected to complement and serve as a precursor to current human trials.

The research showed for the first time that the modulation of gut microbiota by prebiotics can lead to changes in brain biochemistry. The study is published in the journal Neurochemistry International. The researchers hope that the findings could offer insight into the potential treatment of cognitive dysfunction, emotional disturbances in neuropsychiatric illness and age related decline.

In the trial, rats were fed either FOS (fructo-oligosaccahride) or second generation GOS (galacto-oligosaccharide) prebiotics (Bimuno). In both cases significant effects on the neuronal biochemistry of the rats were demonstrated. These effects are believed to have resulted from changes in the gut microbiota including an increase in bifidobacteria facilitated via the feeding of prebiotics.

Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), an important molecule involved in the development and maintenance of neural cells, increased in the brain after repeated ingestion of prebiotics, compared with rats that did not receive the prebiotics. Additionally, components of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, which have a critical role in brain development, learning and memory, also increased in the rat brain after just two weeks of daily prebiotic feedings.

Second generation GOS intake, which induced the greatest elevation of bifidobacteria compared to FOS and controls led to an increase of NR1 and NR2A subunits in the hypocampus and NR1 subunits and D-serine in the frontal cortex. The administration of FOS, which caused a relatively minor proliferation of bifidobacteria, increased the levels of NR1 in the hypocampus only. However, FOS administration also raised the concentration of hippocampal BDNF, an effect previously observed with probiotics.

Further studies will determine whether the increase in NMDA and BDNF were as a result of factors other than only microbiota. This is because there is some evidence suggesting that 2nd generation prebiotics such as Bimuno may also interact directly with the gut. Further research is also needed to test whether the changes seen in the rat brain translate to improved neural function and behaviour, and whether prebiotics can benefit human brain health.

“The study has provided valuable insights into the complex interactions between the gut and brain,” said Dr Phil Burnet, head researcher, University Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford. “Our results have also provided the basis for further research in humans.”

“There is a growing body of evidence linking the gut to various aspects of brain health,” said Geoff Collins, Head of Consumer Marketing, Clasado. “We are hopeful that this new research, the first of its kind using a prebiotic, will pave the way for further discoveries and potential brain associated health applications for this technology.”

Human clinical trials have recently been conducted by Clasado and The Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford. Enrolment for this study was completed in Q4, 2012 with the study itself having been completed at the end of 2013. The results of the study are due to be published in the coming months.

Prebiotic technology could prove to be a useful contribution to the management and treatment of depressive disorders, particularly as unlike some existing drug therapies it is free from unwanted side effects. Clasado hopes to demonstrate that the addition of specific prebiotics to the diet of an ageing population could hold real benefits in ensuring an improved quality of life.

Clasado says it is seeking partnerships on an ongoing basis with Research Centres, Institutions and Companies who have an interest in human health.

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