The gut-brain axis is a bidirectional communication system controlled by neural, hormonal, metabolic, immunologic, and microbial signals. Cellular and molecular factors from the gut can modulate brain function, and recent evidence suggests that impaired communication along this axis plays a central role in the pathogenesis of gastrointestinal and neurological diseases. In this context, clinical studies suggest that patients with IBD are at increased risk of later developing PD. In addition, a link between MS and IBD is suspected. Because of the strong link between gastrointestinal inflammation and neurodegeneration/neuroinflammation, the concept of a pathological „gut-brain axis“ has emerged. Alterations in the microbiome (dysbiosis), as well as translocation of bacterial antigens and inflammatory cells/soluble factors across the intestinal barrier and blood-brain barrier, are thought to be important factors in structural and functional changes in the central nervous system (CNS). While the concept of a gut-brain axis is gaining momentum, in-depth characterization of communication between the two organs is limited. However, these new insights are imperative to identify immunological switch points of this network. The central goal of this clinical research group is therefore to better understand the interactions between the gut and nervous system along the gut-brain axis in immune-mediated inflammatory and degenerative diseases. Linking the research foci of immunology and neuroscience will allow us to gain unique new insights into the pathogenesis of these diseases, thus providing the basis for the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic targets. Interfering with inflammatory processes in either organ system may potentially minimize the risk of developing concomitant inflammatory or degenerative conditions along this axis. To realize this goal, we will combine our expertise in preclinical and clinical neuroimmunology, neurodegeneration, gastroenterology, and mucosal immunology into one initiative, replacing the traditional organ-centric view of inflammatory processes. Our long-term goal is to decipher in detail the mechanisms of gut-brain interactions in order to identify novel biomarkers and targets for therapies, to develop novel therapeutic approaches to effectively combat or even prevent diseases in the gastrointestinal tract and CNS. This should lead to the development of novel therapeutic approaches.

Central Objective:
To define interactions between the gut and nervous system along the gut-brain axis in immune-mediated inflammatory and degenerative diseases