NSF-REU
RESEARCH EXPERIENCES FOR UNDERGRADUATES FROM RURAL AND TRIBAL COLLEGES 

InvestigatorKumi Nagamoto-Combs, Ph.D.

Location:  Department of Pathology, University of North Dakota

Project Title:   Gut-brain communication in food allergy

Description:  Intestinal symptoms are often comorbid in patients suffering from neuropsychiatric conditions such as anxiety, depression, autism, and attention-deficit disorder.  Recent studies have demonstrated that induction of food allergy in mice results in behavioral abnormalities similar to those observed in psychiatric disorders with altered neurochemistry in the brain.  This observation suggests that allergy-mediated intestinal events may directly or indirectly regulate behavior and brain physiology.  More specifically, the immune changes initiated in the intestines during sensitization to a food allergen may communicate with the brain.  Although the precise mechanism for this gut-brain cross-talk is not clear, we hypothesize that oral antigen sensitization leads to increased peripheral inflammatory factors or activated immune cells in the blood circulation, which ultimately reach the brain to impair neuronal and glial functions.  Using a mouse model of milk allergy, we investigate various behavioral, biochemical, and histological changes that occur in the brains of allergic mice.