Leading experts and emerging young investigators actively involved in neurogastroenterology and digestive motility from around the world gathered at the Joint International Neurogastroenterology and Motility Meeting held in Bologna in September 2012 to discuss cutting-edge research. The meeting addressed latest findings in common conditions such as functional bowel disorders, the diagnosis and treatment of which require up-to-date knowledge in this rapidly growing area of medicine. Under This thread, you can find  summaries of 3 presentations that were given during the event.

The intestinal microbiota may be considered as a whole organ in itself, and there is increasing evidence for bidirectional interaction between the gut microbiota and many physiological aspects of the host, both inside and outside the intestinal tract. Microorganisms in the human gut have unique complementary functionalities and provide protective health and wellbeing throughout human life. The majority of microbiota bacterial species cannot be cultured in laboratory conditions; however, remarkable scientific progress has been made regarding study of the gut microbiota in recent years, largely due to innovative research techniques. Professor Joël Doré updated the audience on the current body of knowledge on the diversity of the gut microbiota, and highlighted where advances in the identification of bacterial biomarkers of disease may allow us to predict an individual’s risk of developing gut diseases in the future.

Dr Giovanni Barbara introduced compelling evidence to support the hypothesis that in functional bowel disorders such as the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the microbiota is one key player, along with other luminal factors that lead to increased permeability, stimulate the immune system, and drive activation of responses in the enteric nervous system and sensory afferent pathways conveying information to the brain. He said that we will surely learn more about these potentially important interactions in the coming years.

An interaction between the microbiota, the gut and the brain is now recognised and termed the microbiome-gut-brain axis, which is bidirectional in terms of cause and effect.

Dr Premysl Bercik summarised a wealth of data from animal studies that clearly demonstrate the intestinal microbiota has a profound effect on behaviour and brain biochemistry of the host. Evidence suggests that probiotics can modulate connectivity between the gut and central nervous system (CNS). However, to date, studies in humans are limited, and clinical trials are needed to extend our knowledge on the microbiome-gut-brain axis. The treatment of disorders of the CNS is likely to benefit from the ongoing research.