In this interview, Professor Ted Dinan, Medical Director for Atlantia Clinical Trials talks to News-Medical Life Sciences about the future of microbiome research.
Human microbiome research is one of the most relevant fields of innovation, based on the large range of applications in human microbiome research, and the similarly wide range of sectors that are currently or potentially involved in the area.
The US therapeutics market is meant to reach $6.9 billion by 2024, according to research conducted by IP Pragmatics. Microbiome research and innovation will be the key in reaching this prediction. Ted Dinan, the Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry and a Principal Investigator in APC Microbiome Ireland at University College Cork, talks to Atlantia Clinical Trials about the current state and the future of human microbiome research and markets.
What are the main implications of microbiome research in general medical and nutrition research?
Until recently, the gut microbes were viewed as harmless and of little benefit. We now know that they play a major role in overall wellbeing. Alterations in the gut microbiota have been described in disorders as diverse as depression, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and autism. We also see dramatic changes in the microbiota in those who are overweight and obese.
Microbiome technologies are expected to play a crucial role in the development of new drug discovery platforms and companion diagnostics in the precision medicine era. What is one of the latest topics in microbiome research that most interests you in relation to microbiome alterations linked to disease?
As a psychiatrist, I find the alterations described in the gut microbiota in patients with depression very significant. It raises novel therapeutic possibilities. There is, for example, increasing evidence that a Mediterranean diet, probably acting through the gut microbiota, can protect against the emergence of depression and also enable therapies for depression to work more effectively.
Psychobiotics are bacteria that, when ingested, can have a positive mental health benefit. There are now a number of promising bacteria emerging that may be of value in treating anxiety and depression, although further research is required.
A recent report from Jefferies LLC estimated the number of microbiome based-therapeutics trials in different medical fields, with gastrointestinal related trials being the health area seeing significant input. How could microbiome research be used in food to treat disease?
Frailty in the elderly is associated with decreased microbial diversity. A major challenge for the food industry is to produce food that will increase microbial diversity and stave off frailty as people age. Medical foods are also likely to emerge for other conditions such as depression and diabetes.
Could you tell us your opinion on the state of current global microbiome research? Will progress in this area lead to more investment in the future?
With improved funding the global research perspective looks healthy. We are fortunate in Ireland that Science Foundation Ireland has funded this field for a considerable period of time through APC Microbiome Ireland, based in Cork. There are other major research centers in Canada and the USA.
Within the next few years, we will see several microbiome-based therapies emerge for a variety of diseases. I think it is likely that, as we move forward, the European Medicines Agency and the Food and Drug Administration will require that all drugs licensed are profiled for their impact on the gut microbiota, which in effect is a virtual organ. If a drug damages this virtual organ, then it may not be licensed.
(Source: O'Toole, P. 2017)
MBTs have a long history of research, with the first paper on FMT in Western medicine published in 1958. If you could look forward 200 years’ time, how would you imagine the future of the food industry?
We will see, eventually, highly refined, personalized nutrition regimes that will have a major role in disease prevention. Presently, however, we are far from such a scenario.
About Ted Dinan
In 2019, Ted Dinan was ranked by Expertscape as the number 1 global expert on the microbiota. His main research interest is in the role of the gut microbiota in stress related disorders. He has also worked extensively on the regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, but his main research interest is in the role of the gut microbiota in stress related disorders.
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