Authors: Avaneesh Kunta, Dr. Bruce Stevens, Dr. Elaine Sumners, Dr. Eric Krause, Dr. Mohan Raizada
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Bruce Stevens
College: College of Medicine
Anxiety disorders comprise the single most common mental illness in the U.S. Anxiety develops from a complex set of mental, genetic and physical risk factors that are correlated with medical comorbidities attributable to proinflammatory pathophysiology. Recent evidence implicates profound involvement of gut microbiota in this, and a novel concept of an impaired gut-brain bidirectional communication is emerging for anxiety and other mental disorders. In addition, our studies have shown that global overexpression of angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (ACE2) protects mice from anxiety phenotype and that these mice have unique gut microbiota. Together, this offers a unique opportunity to address the most important question regarding the role of the gut-brain axis in anxiety: is altered gut microbiota dysbiosis responsible for anxiety disorder? This paper will provide a literature survey on the current clinical understanding of mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, and the importance of analyzing the gut microbiome in an effort to understand gut-brain interactions. The paper will further outline the ongoing study that is designed to exploit the impact of ACE2 and microbiota by transferring their anxiolytic benefits from donor animals to affected animals by way of fecal microbiota transplant (FMT).