How can we use probiotics to treat various conditions via the brain-gut system?

Project specs




Arpana Gupta & Tien Dong



Funding agency





Studies suggest that certain chronic diseases are linked to gut microbial diversity and its impact on the brain. The brain-gut microbiome system facilitates two-way communication between the brain and the gut, with the gut bacteria producing molecules that interact directly or indirectly with the brain. People may be able to change their microbiome with probiotics. Therefore, targeting the brain-gut-microbiome system may be an effective way to treat chronic conditions such as obesity.

Researcher Profile

Dr. Arpana (Annie) Gupta completed a PhD degree in Psychology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, followed by an APA accredited clinical internship at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical Center. After coming to UCLA she joined the neuroimaging and psychophysiological cores at the Center for Neurobiology of Stress in 2012. She specializes in research that investigates the influence of environmental factors on shaping neurobiological phenotypes associated with stress and pain-based diseases such as obesity and functional gastroenterological disorders (FGIDs) [vuvlodynia, irritable bowel syndrome]. Her programmatic line of research broadly defined focuses on the bidirectional interactions between the brain and peripheral factors (in particular immune factors and gut microbiota-related metabolites) and how these interactions are modified by vulnerability (early adversity, race, adult stress, socioeconomic status [SES], diet) and protective (resilience, exercise) factors in contributing to the underlying pathophysiology of these disorders. She is dedicated to using advanced automated and mathematical analytic techniques, which allows her to integrate information from multiple data sources, while accounting for sex and race differences. Her goal is to develop a comprehensive model that provides a powerful and sensitive biomarker that will increase biological readouts of these stress and pain-based disorders, thus bringing to the forefront those individuals who are at increased risk as a result of disadvantaged backgrounds.

Dr. Tien Dong received his MD from the University of Chicago and his PhD in Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Physiology at UCLA. His research is focused on the role of the gut microbiome in the pathogenesis of obesity and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) while at the same time creating new platforms to advance the field of precision health. He focuses on the interplay between the gut microbiome and adipocytes in the setting of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and obesity and using the gut microbiome as a novel biomarkers in health and disease. The overarching goal is to evaluate the impact of the brain-gut-microbiome axis on obesity and fatty liver disease.

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