In this interview released at the Dr. Roger’s prize conference, Prof. Alessio Fasano, the coordinator of the GEMMA project, discussed how genetic predisposition, lifestyle, including exposure to environmental factors and quality and quantity of nutrition, and microbiome composition and function, are highly interconnected in a variety of non-infective chronic inflammatory diseases, including autism
The discovery that “leaky gut” contributes to celiac disease and autoimmunity was treated with great skepticism. Five years after the formulation of the hypothesis, Dr Alessio Fasano and his team discovered zonulin, a protein that reversibly modulates intestinal permeability. Zonulin’s effect on gut permeability involves the regulation of tight junctions in intestinal and extra-intestinal cells, including the endothelial cells of the blood brain barrier. Why should you care? Well, it plays an important role in gut permeability, otherwise known as leaky gut syndrome. It turns out there are several potential intestinal stimuli that can trigger zonulin’s release. One is bacterial dysbiosis and the other is gluten. The discovery that zonulin causes aberrant intestinal permeability led to the appreciation that this protein is involved in the pathogenesis of a variety of autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. We invited Dr Alessio Fasano to join us for a Conversation That Matters about our guts, our microbiome and what we can do to manage our own well-being through diet and lifestyle.