In experiments with mice and humans, a team led by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers says it has identified a particular intestinal immune cell that impacts the gut microbiome, which in turn may affect brain functions linked to stress-induced disorders such as depression. Targeting changes mediated by these immune cells in the gut, with drugs or other therapies, could potentially bring about new ways to treat depression.
Stool samples were collected from all study participants, who had comprehensive evaluations including psychiatric history and standard screening assessments for depression and anxiety. In these assessments, higher scores indicate greater depressive symptoms. Genetic analysis of the stool samples showed no difference in the diversity of intestinal bacteria between the subjects with MDD and the control group. However, the relative abundance of Lactobacillus was inversely related to higher depression and anxiety scores in the MDD group, meaning that the more Lactobacillusfound in the gut, the lower the potential for depression and anxiety, the researchers say.
“Despite the differences of intestinal microbiota between mice and humans, the results of our study indicate that the amount of Lactobacillus in the gut may potentially influence stress responses and the onset of depression and anxiety,” says Kamiya.
The investigators say more research is needed to further understand how γδ T cells in the intestinal immune system may impact the neurological functions in the brain and the role of dectin-1 in other cell types along the gut-brain connection under stress conditions.
“These early-stage findings show that, in addition to probiotic supplements, targeting drugs to such types of receptors in the gut immune system may potentially yield novel approaches to prevent and treat stress-induced psychiatric symptoms such as depression,” says Kamiya.
Source: Science Daily