French Gut wants 100,000 stool samples to study the microbiota

French Gut wants 100,000 stool samples to study the microbiota

“Show me your microbiota, I will tell you if you are healthy. And if you will continue to be. Now called the second brain, our gut microbiota is a true reflection of our overall state of health. Composed of billions of bacteria, however, it has not revealed its many secrets. And this is what Le French Gut will try to drill, a research project led by INRAE ​​and carried out in collaboration with AP-HP.

The objective: “Mapping the intestinal microbiota in France to better define its composition”, he explains to 20 minutes Joël Doré, research director specialized in microbiota at INRAE ​​and scientific coordinator of French Gut. And analyze the link between its variations and the development of certain diseases”. But to achieve this, scientists need matter. They thus launched a call for donations aimed at collecting “a stool sample and nutritional and clinical data from 100,000 volunteers over the next five years,” continues Joël Doré, who has been studying the microbiota for more than forty years. he he responds to 20 minutes.

Why does French Gut need stool samples from 100,000 individuals? Why so much?

Knowledge of the microbiota has progressed enormously in the last twenty years. And today, just as we learned to sequence the human genome, we are undertaking the sequencing of all the genes and microorganisms that make up our intestinal microbiota. We are microbial beings, with a microbiota in our intestines, lungs, urogenital sphere or skin. We are in constant interaction with 50,000 trillion bacteria and microbes.

And the intestinal microbiota is in dialogue with our entire body. However, we still have a lot to discover about them, or rather, about them: we have been able to observe that in the general population in good health there is a quite incredible heterogeneity of the gut microbiota, with almost as many unique microbiotas as individuals. . This knowledge of construction must be supported by a very broad baseline.

The French Gut is a unique project, open to people in good health, but also in collaboration with doctors to integrate cohorts of patients with chronic diseases, in order to have a representative panel. It is about studying the role of food, pollution and a set of factors on the microbiota.

This project aims, in particular, to model and predict changes in the gut microbiota associated with diseases. Does this mean that having a weak or unbalanced microbiota paves the way for the development of certain pathologies?

Absolutely ! The rate of incidence of pathologies in our modern societies has skyrocketed for three generations, without us having any control. However, the microbiota plays a very important role: if it is healthy, it can constitute a protective shield against various diseases. But if it is weak or in dysbiosis, it can cause intestinal permeability, which will lead to inflammation, oxidative stress and decreased immunity.

A vicious circle then begins that turns the microbiota into a factor that favors the development of many chronic diseases: IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), metabolic diseases such as diabetes or obesity, but also certain cancers and many neurological diseases.

One of the axes of the French Gut will thus focus on the study of the link between the intestinal microbiota and chronic diseases, but also neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and bipolarity, or with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.

Doing this mapping of the microbiota, can we aspire to turn it into a health prevention tool? Even a medicine?

This project aims to develop diagnosis and therapeutic optimization: the microbiota can be a predictive tool. In cancer treatment, a certain weak or unbalanced microbiota has been shown to be predictive of non-response to immunotherapy. In the field of obesity, patients with a particularly reduced microbiota generally fail to regulate their weight, improve their inflammation, or reduce their diabetes symptoms.

This means, therefore, that there is a component of therapeutic innovation to be developed: we will be able to use the microbiota as a lever or as a kind of medicine. We believe that we can go as far as the process of microbiota transfer from a healthy individual to a diseased individual to transform a patient who does not respond to a treatment into a responder.

Therefore, we can think that in the face of certain diseases, taking into account the component of the intestinal microbiota could lead to greater efficacy and performance in therapeutic approaches. It is hypothetical, even if there are already some areas where this is progressing. This is already a reality in the field of the fight against IBD, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, where the transfer of fecal microbiota from a healthy individual allows the transplanted patient to rebuild an intestinal microbiota by symbiosis. It acts like a drug, with a great improvement in the symptoms of the disease.

How can we act on the quality of our microbiota? And how can everyone make their “contribution” to science?

The French Gut aims to move towards personalized preventive nutrition, to provide recommendations to ensure or restore a microbiota whose composition, richness and diversity make it more favorable for maintaining good health, to make a mechanism of prevention of chronic diseases. Because everything is related: the microbiota and the immune system are mirrors that constantly interact.

Everyone can contribute by responding to our call for donations. It is quite taboo to ask people to collect a stool sample. But the general public’s interest in the microbiota has created a craze. And it’s very simple, you just have to be of legal age and go to our LeFrenchGut site, verify your eligibility (not having taken an ‘antibiotics recently) and complete a fifteen year old. minute questionnaire, before receiving a self-collection kit to be returned by mail in a stabilizing liquid. The sample will undergo sequencing and become part of our baseline.

The French Gut is part of an international project, the “Million Human Microbiomes”, which aims to map one million human microbiotas and build the world’s largest database.

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