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Café Scientifique – Nerves, Metabolism & Bugs…
January 30 @ 6:00pm
Café Scientifique: “Nerves, metabolism and bugs…” free, public event will take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30, at the Baxter
BOZEMAN – Montana State University researchers Frances Lefcort, Valérie Copié and Seth Walk will team up at the next Café Scientifique to present “Nerves, metabolism and bugs: How your brain, liver and gut interact to influence health.” The free, public event will take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30, at the Baxter in downtown Bozeman. It is hosted by MSU’s Montana INBRE and COBRE programs.
Lefcort, Copié and Walk will discuss new research opportunities emerging at the intersection of microbiology, neuroscience and metabolism – or “the gut-brain-liver axis” as Lefcort calls it.
“It turns out that there’s extensive communication between the brain and the microbes that live in your gut, and that communication is a very promising area of research for understanding neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS,” Lefcort said.
Lefcort is a professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Copié is a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Walk is an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. All three departments are housed in the College of Letters and Science, with the Department of Microbiology and Immunology also housed in the College of Agriculture.
In addition to providing a broader context for this emerging area of cutting-edge research, the trio also plans to share insights from their own multi-disciplinary research collaboration, which recently received a $2.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.
“Our project is nested in this larger, emerging area of multidisciplinary research, but it’s also unique because we’re focusing on a very specific neurological disorder and also bringing in the role of metabolism,” said Leftcort.
The collaboration began when Lefcort, an expert on Familial dysautonomia, a rare inherited neurological disorder, noticed some odd connections between her brain research and other areas of the body.
“A common problem among people with Familial dysautonomia is that they tend to have trouble putting on weight, which suggests a metabolic problem,” said Lefcort. “Another issue is that the gastrointestinal tract doesn’t always function normally, which points toward the gut microbiome.”
Those observations caused Lefcort to approach colleagues with expertise in those areas.
“Frances reached out to me and said, ‘you know, I’m studying this disease and I’m noticing some strange connections between it and metabolism,’” said Copié, who researches cellular metabolism. “That’s what got us started on this path.”
“Frances is really the one who brought us all together,” added Walk. “She’s a leading expert on this rare genetic neurological disease, and her observations created a unique opportunity to collaborate across disciplines.”
The event will conclude with discussion of how insights into the gut-brain-liver axis in one context can perhaps point toward therapies for other neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS.
“There’s a research triangle emerging here, and it’s becoming clear that if we’re going to solve and understand neurological diseases, we need to factor in the gut microbiome and the bacterial and host metabolism as part of the problem and potentially as part of the solution,” said Lefcort.
“Scientists are beginning to understand how the whole body senses and responds to things like food and metabolism to increase the health of neurons in the brain,” added Walk. “So this kind of integration between disciplines and looking at how systems interact to influence health are big areas of opportunity.”
Café Scientifique provides a relaxed setting for people to learn about current scientific topics. The concept started in England in 1998 and has spread to a handful of locations in the United States. Following a short presentation by a scientific expert, the majority of time is reserved for conversation, questions and dialogue. Refreshments are provided free of charge.
Housed at MSU, Montana INBRE and COBRE are each Institutional Development Award Programs (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under grant numbers P20GM103474 and GM103500, respectively.
Contact Bill Stadwiser with Montana INBRE at 406-994-3360 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the Café Scientifique concept or check the web at inbre.montana.edu/cafe/index.html.