Mike Taylor, University of Auckland. 7.30PM, Tuesday 4 February 2014. Holt Planetarium, Chambers St, Napier.
A large turn-out brought 100 people to hear Mike Taylor’s lecture. Mike gave a general background to the gut microbiota and its importance to human health overall, noting bacteria have many beneficial functions, including for nutrition, immune system development and pathogen defense.
He then introduced the notion of gut bugs influencing our brains, and that imbalance or “dysbiosis” in gut microbiota has been linked to wide range of human ailments (obesity, cancer) and neurological disorders.
Mike identified mechanisms by which links between the nervous and digestive system are or may be linked, citing some very recent international research. He then built his presentation into some specific discussion about gut-autism interactions and the overall objectives of the Minds for Minds research team.
Autism is a major human health issue that appears to have increased markedly in recent decades. In the 1990s about 1 in 2000 people were reported to have some form of autism spectrum idsorder. Now it is reported to affect as many as 1 in 88 children (1 in 54 boys).
A number of recent studies have indicated differences in the gut microbiota of people with and without ASD, though few consistent patterns have yet emerged. In order to better understand the role of the gut microbiome in ASD, Mike Taylor and colleagues have recently started to investigate the composition and activities of the faecal microbiota among people with ASD.
This work is done in close collaboration with geneticists, a neurologist and a biochemist and fits within the wider framework of the Minds for Minds research campaign.