Enteric neurons for functional applications in health care



Studying the role of the Enteric Nervous System (ENS) in the development of gut-brain pathologies (e.g., Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, aging, stress, visceral pain) is an ever-expanding research topic.

Researchers are starting to propose numerous pharmacological approaches to counteract the development of some pathologies, but additional studies are needed to understand each specificity in detail. In new therapeutic approaches, treating the gut “locally” to modify brain function, and thus the whole body, seems to be a viable option to avoid the potential side effects of many current drugs. In the near future, tomorrow’s medicine will need to take a deeper look at our “second brain” for curative purposes.



Nutraceutic leads such as probiotics and prebiotics (and other ingredients) are known to modulate the “second brain”.

Obviously, the curative treatments are crucial for patients, but innovation in medicine requires preventive approaches to protect a large number of potential patients and limit the costs of future treatments.

Recent data from Knauf’s lab have shown that the oligofructose prebiotic improves the diabetic state (hyperglycemia, insulin resistance) in diabetic preclinical models by modulating the activity of neurons that control gut motility. In this study, the modulation of gut microbiota population with prebiotics modified the release of local bioactive molecules (bioactive lipids and peptides) that exert a substantial benefic action on glycemia via the ENS.


Food and Feed

Feel free to feed your gut! Taking care of the intestine is the first mission of functional foods. Controlling enteric neurons may be a good option to improve intestinal functions such as nutrient absorption and bioavailability, intestinal immunity, aging and the composition of the gut microbiota. Well-being is also characterized by a normal transit that is under the influence of enteric neurons in the colon. Using functional foods to control colonic motility and associated troubles (diarrhea, constipation) observed in various conditions such as stress may provide natural solutions to prevent these issues. In the literature, Claude’s team has shown that glucose and certain components of breast milk modify the activity of the “ENS-intestinal smooth muscle” couple in addition to many other molecular actors.



Because our gut is worth it too. Oxidative stress and inflammation are key words frequently used to describe disorders associated with skin problems (e.g., acne, dermatitis, aging). Several scientific articles have demonstrated that a bidirectional cross-talk exists between the skin and the gut microbiota. Here again, the enteric nervous system could be at the crossroads of these two actors. As an unfortunate example, aging does not only alter our skin but our enteric nervous system and the gut microbiota as well.

How could this tripartite dialogue take place? Oxidative stress and inflammation in the gut could lead to disturbances in the function of the enteric nervous system resulting in dysbiosis. This in turn would result in changes in the factors released by the bacteria which may end up impacting our skin.

Credits : Pr. Knauf




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