GOOD

Probiotics Found To Reverse “Autism-Related” Behavior In Mice

New research has displayed stunning results

Getty Images

Probiotics, the friendly bacteria that live in your gut have become quite the fad, turning up in everything from hot sauce to instant coffee. The benefits of a diet high in probiotics foods are well-advertised, if largely unproven: a stronger immune system, better digestion, mood elevation and a resistance to seasonal allergies are all promised side effects of the diet. Now, one group of researchers believes we might soon be able to add another benefit to that list: reversing the effects of Autism Spectrum Disorder.


According to a new study in the journal Cell, a common gut bacteria in humans had exactly that effect on a test group of mice, which were exhibiting behavior “reminiscent of symptoms of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in humans.” While the research is still a ways off from being applicable to human patients, the study’s lead author, Dr. Mauro Costa-Mattioli of the Baylor College of Medicine, believes his team has discovered an avenue that may one day help treat patients on the spectrum.

“Patients that have Autism Spectrum Disorder,” Dr. Costa-Mattioli explains, “they [often] have gastrointestinal problems. So I really wanted to see whether we could replicate this in mice.”

To do this, Costa-Mattioli’s team at Baylor College of Medicine proceeded with two known factors: a child is at a higher risk of autism if the mother suffers from obesity, and maternal obesity is also known to affect the gut bacteria in offspring.

To replicate these factors in rodents, the team placed a group of female mice on a high-fat diet, which produced a group of offspring showing, “behavioral deficits, such as spending less time in contact with their peers and not initiating interactions,” the study says.

By analyzing the fecal matter of these offspring, the team noticed those mice with symptoms had less microbial diversity in their gut microbiomes than their healthy cousins in the control group. Once they compared the bacteria found in both groups, the team identified exactly which strain was missing from the mice that were anti-social.

“What we found is changes specifically in the gut bacteria were responsible for their behavioral changes in both offsprings,” Costa-Mattioli explains. “In other words, if we were able to alter the gut bacteria in those animals, we could recover the behavioral deficiencies. We nailed it to a particular bacteria strain that when you give it to the animals, the animals become much better.”

Lactobacillus reuteri, the strain Costa-Mattioli’s team identified is known to increase levels of oxytocin — a hormone responsible for controlling fear and anxiety in both mice and humans. By isolating a strain of L. reuteri from human breast milk, and then re-introducing it to the mice with the social anxiety, their behavior began to return to normal.

“It is a particular bacteria which, surprisingly, has an amazing role in the ability of the animal to engage with another animal or to interact with another animal,” Costa-Mattioli continued.

While more research is necessary to understand exactly how these bacteria have this affect on health, the team is hopeful that their discovery could one day lead to a simple, non-invasive treatment for humans on the autism spectrum.

“I’m still fascinated by the fact that bacteria in your gut can affect the behavior and has the potential to restore social abilities. And I think that because of huge implication for this society, we are very hopeful that this could be a potential mechanism [for treatment],” Costa-Mattioli concluded. “We still have a few years ahead of experiments, but I think we’re in the right track.”

Articles
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health