Manaswini Sarangi, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow (Dus Laboratory), Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan
There is a major communication highway between the brain and the gut: stomach/intestinal problems can lead to anxiety and depression, and anxiety/depression can cause digestive issues. In fact, just thinking about eating causes the stomach to release gastric juices even before the food is in your mouth. Scientists are just now exploring this connection in humans and lab models. Among these, the fruit fly is an outstanding model due to its short life span, generation time, and genetic tools. This image shows developing fruit fly embryos, positioned to show the top, sides and bottom of the animal. The brain hemispheres are labeled red in the top image, while the green marks the branching and extension of the axons of the neuronal cells throughout the body. The embryonic gut and mouth are shown in magenta. Using this model, we can study how specific diets fed to adult flies (e.g., regular diet vs high sugar) affect the patterns of expression of specific proteins in the guts and brains of their offspring and how this in turn affects that gut-brain connection.