These two papers were so interesting to read; it’s so fascinating that the human body acts as a host to trillions of microbes that reciprocally assist in physiologic functions including immune protection, proper digestive functioning and absorption of nutrients. It appears that research regarding the gut microbiota has taken off in recent years, and the apparent mental health benefits of having a healthy microbiota are incredibly exciting.
The Buffington et. al paper was one of my favorite papers we’ve read thus far; it was
straightforward and easily understandable, and the experiments followed such a logical sequence. The video summary also helped in further clarifying the experimenters’ thought progression during their research. One finding I wish the researchers had expanded on regarded the marble burying behavior seen in MHFD mice; it would have been interesting if the experimenters had tested rescuing other repetitive behaviors using co-housing or fecal transplant strategies. Furthermore, I would love to read additional research attempting to rescue the various other behavioral phenotypes of ASD using strategies integrating the microbiome.
The Reber et. al paper was a bit more difficult to comprehend, but the results were still outstanding. At times the scope of this paper felt too broad, hence why I preferred the specific focus of the Buffington et. al paper. I appreciated how this paper incorporated several wide-ranging experiments to demonstrate how M. vaccae is protective against stress by examining serotoninergic expression and microglia density. I was also intrigued how a heat-killed preparation of M. vaccae increased resilience to stress-related pathologies, but heat-killed L. reuteri had no effect in recovery of social deficits. This may be in part due to a lack of knowledge regarding bacteria preparations, but I’m curious how the two groups found a such difference in functionality when inactivating their bacterial strain of interest. Overall, the approaches detailed in these papers seem incredibly promising and applicable to humans, and I’m excited to read more research about the gut/brain connection and its relation to psychiatric conditions.