Science Policy For All

Because science policy affects everyone.

Science Policy Around the Web – November 14, 2014

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By: Nicholas Jury, Ph.D

Photo Credit: Lester V. Bergman/Corbis


Mental Health

Recent evidence linking gut microbes and mental disorders grab neuroscientists’ attention

Dietary supplement companies selling “probiotics” have often claimed that adding them to a diet can enhance the overall mental health of an individual. Even though these gut-derived microbes are readily available over-the-counter, neuroscientists are not completely sold on their utility. However, recent pre-clinical studies have provided some evidence linking mental conditions such as autism and depression to the gut microbiome. These studies have spurred new interest in the potential connection between the “gut-brain axis.”

More than $1 million has been spent this year by the National Institute of Mental Health on research projects investigating the connection between the gut microbiome and the brain. Furthermore, John Cryan at the University of College Cork in Ireland will present evidence linking gut microbes to depression-like behavior in mice at the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. His study demonstrated that mice that were born via caesarean section acted in a more depressed-like manner when compared to mice that were born vaginally. “The microbiome is likely to have its greatest impact on early life,” said Cryan.

Another study conducted in mice demonstrated a potential link between autism-like symptoms and the gut microbe Bacteroides fragilis. Mice with autism-like symptoms were fed these gut bacteria and symptoms ceased. Furthermore, this same group found that the mice with autism-like symptoms had high levels of a bacterial metabolite, and that injecting this metabolite into normal mice caused them to exhibit autism-like symptoms.

These pre-clinical studies provide some evidence of the interaction between our gut microbiome and the brain, and the potential therapeutic utility of probiotics in mental health disorders.

(Sara Reardon, Nature)


Federal Science Policy – Regulatory

The 21st century cures initiative drums up bipartisan support on Capitol Hill

Amidst the partisan rancor and gridlock on Capitol Hill, there appears to be some resemblance of bipartisanship with a new biomedical legislative priority. The 21st Century Cures Initiative aims to reduce unnecessary regulation and decrease the time to bring new biological and pharmacological treatments to market. Specifically, the initiative could address regulation regarding clinical trials and institutional review boards. The initiative was conceived by two unlikely bedfellows on the House Energy and Commerce Committee: a conservative, Representative Fred Upton (R-MI), chairman, and a liberal Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO). The first draft of the legislation is expected to be announced at the beginning of the 114th Congress.

(Kelly Servick,  ScienceInsider)


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Written by sciencepolicyforall

November 14, 2014 at 11:12 pm

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