“Show me your microbiota and I’ll tell you if you’re healthy.” And if you stay that way. Our gut microflora, now called the second brain, is a true reflection of our overall health. It consists of billions of bacteria, but its many secrets have not been revealed. And it will try to break through French gutresearch project supported by INRAE and produced in collaboration with AP-HP.
The goal: “Mapping the intestinal microflora in France to better define its composition, he explains 20 minutes Joël Doré, director of research specializing in microbiota at INRAE and scientific coordinator of French Gut. And to analyze the connection between its variations and the development of certain diseases”. However, to achieve this, scientists need matter. They are launching a call for donations aimed at collecting “stool samples and nutritional and clinical data from 100,000 volunteers over the next five years”, continues Joël Doré, who has been working with microbiota for more than forty years. Responds to 20 minutes.
Why does the French Bowel need stool samples from 100,000 individuals? Why so much?
Knowledge of the microflora has advanced enormously over the past twenty years. And today, in the same way we learned to sequence the human genome, we are sequencing all the genes and microorganisms that make up our gut microbiota. We are microbial beings with microbiota in the intestines, lungs, urogenital sphere or skin. We are in constant interaction with 50,000 billion bacteria and microbes.
AND intestinal microbiota it is in dialogue with our entire organism. However, we still have a lot to discover about her, or rather about them: we could observe that in the general population in good health there is a rather incredible heterogeneity of the intestinal microflora, with almost as many unique microflora as individuals. This construction knowledge must be supported by a very broad base.
The French Bowel is a unique project, open to individuals in good health, but also in collaboration with doctors to integrate cohorts of patients with chronic diseases to have a representative panel. This includes studying the role of food, pollution and a number of factors on the microbiota.
This project aims in particular to model and predict changes in intestinal microflora associated with diseases. Does this mean that a weak or unbalanced microbiota paves the way for the development of certain pathologies?
Absolutely! The rate of pathology in our modern societies has exploded for three generations without our being able to control it. However, the microbiota plays a very important role: if it is healthy, it can form a protective shield against a number of diseases. But if it is weak or in dysbiosis, it can cause intestinal permeability, which causes inflammation, oxidative stress and lowers immunity.
Then begins a vicious circle, thanks to which the microbiota becomes a factor supporting the development of many chronic diseases: IBD (inflammatory bowel diseases), metabolic diseases such as diabetes or obesity, but also some cancers and a number of neurological diseases.
One of the axes of the French intestines will thus focus on the study of the connection between the intestinal microbiota and chronic diseases, but also neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and bipolarity, or with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.
Can we hope to make this microbiota mapping a tool for health prevention? Even medicine?
This project aims to develop diagnostics and therapeutic optimization: the microbiota can be a predictive tool. During treatment cancerA certain weak or unbalanced microflora has been shown to be predictive of a lack of response to immunotherapy. On the ground obesitypatients with particularly depleted microflora generally fail to manage their weight, improve their inflammation, or reduce their diabetes symptoms.
So this means that a component of therapeutic innovation needs to be developed: we will be able to use the microbiota either as a lever or as a kind of medicine. We think we can go as far as the process of transferring microflora from a healthy individual to a diseased individual to convert a non-responder to a responder.
We can therefore think that in the face of some diseases, taking into account the component of the intestinal microflora could lead to greater efficiency and performance in therapeutic approaches. It’s hypothetical, although there are already a few areas where it’s being developed. It is already a reality on the ground the fight against IBDsuch as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis where transmission of faecal microflora of a healthy individual allows the transplanted patient to restore the intestinal microbiota in symbiosis. It acts like a drug, with a great improvement in the symptoms of the disease.
How can we influence the quality of our microbiota? And how can everyone make their “contribution” to science?
French gut is the goalswitch to personalized preventive nutrition, to provide recommendations to ensure or restore the microflora, whose composition, richness and diversity make it more favorable for maintaining good health, to make it a mechanism for the prevention of chronic diseases. Because everything is connected: the microbiota and the immune system are mirrors that constantly interact.
Anyone can contribute by responding to our donation call. Asking people to collect a stool sample themselves is quite taboo. But the general public’s interest in the microbiota has created a frenzy. And it’s very simple, you just need to be of legal age andgo to our LeFrenchGut website, check their eligibility (no recent antibiotic use) and complete a fifteen-minute questionnaire before receiving a self-collection kit that will be returned by mail in stabilizing fluid. The sample will be sequenced and added to our reference database.
French Gut is part of the international project “Million microbiomes of humans”, which aims to map one million human microbiota and build the largest database in the world.