L-R: Kirsten Tillisch, Elaine Hsiao, Jonathan Jacobs, Claudia Sanmiguel, Emeran Mayer (Director), Jen Labus, Lisa Kilpatrick, Lin Chang, Arpana Gupta, Catia Sternini
L-R: Kirsten Tillisch, Elaine Hsiao, Jonathan Jacobs, Claudia Sanmiguel, Emeran Mayer (Director), Jen Labus, Lisa Kilpatrick, Lin Chang, Arpana Gupta, Catia Sternini

Mission:
To characterize the complex interactions between the gut, its microbiome and the brain in health and chronic diseases of the GI tract and the brain

Background:
Despite an extensive body of reported information about peripheral and central mechanisms involved in the pathophysiology of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms, no comprehensive disease model has emerged that would guide the development of novel, effective therapies. In the periphery, tremendous progress has been made in characterizing the complexity of the enteric nervous system and the multiple cells it interactions with, the so called gut connectome. More recent efforts have begun to characterize the composition and function trillions of microbes living peacefully in our gut, communicating with the gut connectome.

There is also growing scientific evidence that the central nervous system participates in this communication, and program investigators have played a pioneering role in studying the bidirectional communication of the gut microbes with the brain.

At the brain level, distinct brain networks have been identified which are altered in disorders such as IBS, ulcerative colitis and obesity, providing “brain signatures” of these common disorders. Using cutting edge basic, translational and clinical research approaches, program investigators are studying the emerging correlations between these brain networks and genomic, gastrointestinal, immune and gut-microbiome-related parameters. These studies are based on the realization that no single cell abnormality can fully explain the complex clinical phenotype of various brain and brain gut disorders.

Program Description:

  • This NIH funded research program aims to understand how the trillions of microbes in our gut communicate with our digestive system and with the brain to maintain health, and how disturbances in this communication affects brain gut microbiome interactions, leading to chronic diseases.
  • The Program is embedded in the campus wide UCLA Microbiome Center which is a community of UCLA investigators from different Departments in the Medical and Dental Schools with a shared interest in studying the interactions of the human body with its resident microbiota.
  • Program investigators interact closely with the laboratories of Jonathan Jacob, MD, PhD (Division of Digestive Diseases) and Elaine Hsiao, PhD (Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology)

Disease Areas:
Brain gut disorders (IBS, IBD); Obesity; Brain disorders (Autism, Parkinson’s disease, Anxiety, Depression)

Key Investigators:
Emeran A. Mayer, Elaine Hsiao, Jonathan Jacobs, Jennifer Labus, Kirsten Tillisch, Arpana Gupta, Claudia Sanmiguel, Lin Chang

Funding:
NIDDK