SINGAPORE, 03 June 2022 – The 1.5 kg of bacteria residing in our gut have the potential to support and prolong a healthy life. Studies have found that microbiota in the digestive system (gut microbes) make a myriad of substances that influence human health, even affecting distant organs such as the brain. In fact, 30% of the molecules circulating in our blood stream every day has a microbial origin.
The ASEAN Microbiome and Nutrition Centre (AMNC) has been established to discover how gut microbes influence health and ageing biology to prevent the onset of age-related diseases including neurodegenerative diseases. The Centre will bring these findings out of the laboratory into the clinical setting, bridging the gap between experimental microbiome research and ongoing translational research in Singapore and Malaysia.
“Research on gut microbe host communications open up novel treatments to prevent and manage age-related and lifestyle-related diseases. In contrast to our genes, which are not easy to change, our indigenous gut microbes are malleable and respond to diet. That makes them very attractive to be targeted by food intervention,” says Professor Sven Pettersson, Director, AMNC and Principal Investigator, Department of Research, National Neuroscience Institute (NNI). AMNC is a partnership between NNI in Singapore and Sunway University in Malaysia and supported by the UK Dementia Research Institute. It was set up with funding from the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation.
“At Sunway University we have a strong interest in Planetary Health. One of the major connection points between Human and Planetary health is in the microbiome and one of the major ways to influence the health of this symbiosis is nutrition,” says Prof Sibrandes Poppema, President of Sunway University. This international virtual network centre is engaging with researchers in Europe, North America, Australia and Asia, focusing on identifying how microbial mechanisms regulate biological ageing.
“The first research linking gut microbes to the brain was published less than 20 years ago and there is still much we do not know. NNI is glad to be part of this discovery journey and to collaborate with researchers from around the world to advance knowledge and care for our patients,” says Professor Louis Tan, Director, Department of Research, and Senior Consultant, Department of Neurology, NNI. Prof Tan is also a Clinical Professor at Duke-NUS Medical School.
"The new AMNC addresses an emerging area of importance across all of the brain sciences. Deciphering host-microbiome interactions promises new strategies for treatment of major unmet medical needs, especially those posed by neurodegeneration and dementia. I wish it well in its mission", says Professor Paul Matthews, Head of UK Dementia Research Institute.
The gut-brain dialogue is bidirectional and research has shown that microbes are either beneficial by secreting molecules that reduce inflammation and influence memory and social behaviour, or detrimental by accelerating inflammation and age-related disease symptoms in the body. The decision lies in the diet and our own lifestyle, which are master regulators of human health.
AMNC will study how gut microbes and their secreted molecules communicate with our organs in the body. Another mission of AMNC is to work closely with the local food industry to develop next-generation food products to guide gut microbes to support human health and the ageing body.
Gut microbiome host interaction research is a recent new paradigm of medical biology. The AMNC will therefore build collaborations with relevant stakeholders in Singapore to support education about the interplay between gut microbes, nutrition and ageing, including the training of next-generation investigators and healthcare professionals. To highlight the establishment of this Centre, AMNC is holding a one day “kick-off” symposium Bookends of Life in Singapore on 7 June 2022, where local and international speakers will discuss gut microbe-host interactions that shape early development and support healthy ageing.