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Gut-Brain Axis Program

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The gut-brain axis is the bidirectional communication between the central nervous and peripheral intestinal systems. The “microbiome-gut-brain axis”, which originated from studies of germ free and microbiome-reconstituted mice, refers to the complex interactions between the gut microbiome, the enteric epithelial layer, and the brain. This poorly understood multidimensional system consists of microbial interactions at the epithelial layer affecting intestinal barrier integrity, local immune regulation, systemic circulation, neural pathways, and the blood-brain barrier. In humans the gut microbiota has been linked to health and disease conditions that include neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Investigations into the “microbiome-gut-brain axis” among Alzheimer’s disease patients has been limited. To date, we are far from a causative model of how the gut microbiome can influence or cause Alzheimer’s disease onset or progression. The Alzheimer’s disease microbiome project is our major current work into the microbiome-gut-brain axis however we are also working on this axis among patients with long lasting COVID-19 symptoms or long-COVID and trauma victims seen in the Emergency Department who then go on to develop adverse post-traumatic neuropsychiatric sequelae such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. By combining longitudinal clinical studies among these diverse groups with in vitro/vivo experimentation using our cell line and animal models we hope to drive a better understanding of this complex system that then enables novel microbiome-based therapeutics.