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Study on How Marital Stress May Affect the Gut Microbiome with uBiome Microbiome Impact Grant

The scientific review committee of microbial genomics leader, uBiome, has selected a study led by Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, of The Ohio State University, to receive one of the company’s ongoing series of Microbiome Impact Awards. Dr. Kiecolt-Glaser is the Director of The Ohio State Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.

Her study will explore the connection between marital stress and depression and the composition of the gut microbiome. A total of 500 healthy married couples (1,000 individuals in total) will have their gut microbiomes analyzed, and will complete a questionnaire designed to rate their levels of stress and/or depression. Past studies with mice have shown that the microbiome of animals change considerably when stress is experienced, but this study of humans, specifically focusing on marital stress, is a novel investigation on potential gut-brain connections. Stress can lead to inflammation, which, in turn, may be associated with conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other diseases associated with aging.

Dr. Kiecolt-Glaser’s innovative study will discover potential links between emotional responses and gut microbiota. It will also help to explain what role relationships have on stress levels that may lead to potential health risks.

uBiome’s Microbiome Impact Award will fund the detailed analyses of the microbiomes of the study’s 1,000 participants, using precision sequencing™. The microbiome is the collective term for the ecosystem of many trillions of microorganisms that live both in and on the human body. Many of them play important parts in the support of life. Some bacteria, for example, enable the digestion of foods that the body itself cannot process. Other bacteria allow vitamins to be synthesized.

Dr. Kiecolt-Glaser is a clinical psychologist working in the field of psychoneuroimmunology, who has authored more than 250 articles, chapters, and books, the majority of which have been in collaboration with Dr. Ronald Glaser. Their studies have demonstrated important health consequences of stress, including slower wound healing and impaired vaccine responses. They have also shown that chronic stress substantially accelerates inflammation, and personal relationships can influence immune and endocrine function as well as health. In addition to her position as Director of The Ohio State Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research, Dr. Kiecolt-Glaser holds the titles of Distinguished University Professor and the S. Robert Davis Chair in The Ohio State College of Medicine.

Dr. Kiecolt-Glaser is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine (now known as the National Academy of Medicine) and a Fellow in both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Psychological Association. She has served on the editorial boards of eleven journals, and she received the Award for Outstanding Contributions to Health Psychology twice. The Institute for Scientific Information rates her in the top half of the top one percent of the world’s most highly cited publishing researchers.

Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, Director of The Ohio State Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research, comments: “In our prior marital studies, we have shown that marital discord promotes inflammation. Our research has shown that chronically abrasive marital relationships heighten production of epinephrine and norepinephrine -- stress hormones that stimulate the growth of many enteric bacteria -- and heighten inflammation. Recently, we found that men and women whose marital discussions were more hostile and who also had a mood disorder history had lower resting energy expenditure, higher insulin, and higher peak triglyceride responses than other participants following high-fat meals. The welcome support of uBiome will enable us, for the first time, to explore these effects across a relatively large sample of married couples.”

Dr. Jessica Richman, co-founder and CEO of uBiome, says: “Dr. Kiecolt-Glaser’s study is evidence of the way in which the microbiome impacts many aspects of human life. We are eager to learn more about the impact of the stress on gut bacteria, and the resulting effect of this on physical health.”

Dr. Zachary Apte, co-founder and CTO of uBiome, and Adjunct Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, adds: “We’re excited to support such a study, spanning psychology, microbiology, and genomics and to learn more about the impact of mental health on the microbiome.”

Founded in 2012, uBiome is the world’s leading microbial genomics company. uBiome is funded by Y Combinator, Andreessen Horowitz, 8VC, and other leading investors.

uBiome’s mission is to explore important research questions about the microbiome and to develop accurate and reliable clinical tests based on the microbiome.

Julie Taylor
Ph: +1 (415) 212-9214

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