Belgian flemish gut flora project


You solved your 14th Amazing Bio-Hunt clue! 
In finding the answer to this clue about food, you discovered a little bit more about your gut health, and how it can actually affect your whole body, including your mental health.
The Flemish Gut Flora Project, one of the largest population-wide studies on gut flora variation among healthy volunteers, presented its first major results in 2016.

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Through the analysis of more than 1,000 human stool samples, a team of researchers led by professor Jeroen Raes (VIB/VUB/KU Leuven) has identified 69 factors that are linked to gut flora composition. These results provide important information for future disease research and clinical studies.

In recent years, healthy gut function has been linked to normal central nervous system function. Hormones, neurotransmitters and immunological factors released from the gut are known to send signals to the brain as part of what is now called the gut-brain axis! This gut-brain link was first discovered in mice that reacted to stress differently when they has different gut microbiome. 

In case you were wondering, the microbiome is defined as the collective genomes of the microbes (composed of bacteria, bacteriophage, fungi, protozoa and viruses) that live inside and on a certain defined area.  Further studies then showed that actually, the composition of the gut microbiome can have an effect on our central nervous system and conditions like anxiety and depression.

Jeroen Raes of the the Flemish Gut Flora Project is excited since "Our research has given us a tremendous amount of new insight into the microbiota composition of normal people like you and me. This makes the Flemish Gut Flora Project unique, since the majority of previous studies focused on specific diseases or featured a significantly smaller geographical scope. However, analyzing the 'average' gut flora is essential for developing gut bacteria-based diagnostics and drugs. You need to understand what's normal before you can understand and treat disease."  

“Our work is actually just the start – there is a lot of work that still needs to be done to identify those compounds/ingredients that affect microbiota composition and figure out how they work. With this work we have the ‘map’ of healthy microbiome space – now we need to identify how to move people around on that map.”

The gut microbiome and the whole human microbiome are new areas of research, but as Dr. Raes mentions it is an exciting new field that may soon change the way we understand ourselves and how we navigate the world. From predicting our future physical and mental health, to curing illness, the best has yet to come. 


 Learn more about microbiomes here: The hidden world of Microbiomes video