Communication between gut and brain is an exciting new research area, was the conclusion of Mari Smits at the mini-symposium “Gut to Brain” that was organized on the occasion of his retirement. Around 80 people participated in this mini-symposium with 3 stimulating speakers.
BSE starts in the gut
Alex Bossers highlighted the role of the gut in the development of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (BSE in cattle, scrapie in sheep). He nicely demonstrated that the prion agent (a misfolded protein particle) multiplies and travels through the vagus nerve from the gut to the central nervous system.
Food for mood
Michiel Kleerebezem presented several examples of how gut microbiota or microbiota-derived metabolites affect the behaviour of a variety of model organisms. He also discussed the various mechanisms through which this gut-brain communication is accomplished. Michiel also discussed the possibilities of the development of “food for mood” and potential applications of this knowledge in the field of animal production.
Gut to Brain
Mari Smits provided a brief overview of his 28 years of research at Wageningen University & Research. He emphasized the importance of “immune competence” of animals and the role that microbiota and dietary components play in the development of the desired immune competence. He furthermore showed evidences that the early life of animals provides the best window of opportunities to modulate immune competence.
After this formal part was an informal reception, where all the PhD’s looked back at the key-role Mari has fulfilled during the period they were PhD’s candidates. Mari has worked within Wageningen University & Research in various positions since 1988. Before his retirement he was researcher at Wageningen Livestock Research with a posting at Animal Breeding & Genomics of Wageningen University & Research, and at Wageningen Bioveterinary Research and connected to the Chair group Host-Microbe-Interactions as endowed professor of Intestinal Health of Animals.