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NO.342 09.04.2017

Mental Illness and Gut Microbiota: New Therapeutic Possibilities

Kyung Hee University College of Medicine has been selected as the Medical Research Center by National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) and the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning

The Research Center Support (RCS) program supports distinguished research groups with creativity and excellence to raise their level of competency and sophistication to the world level. There are four divisions in the program: Science Research Center (SRC), Engineering Research Center (ERC), Medical Research Center (MRC), and Convergence Research Center (CRC).

The College of Medicine is going to establish Neurobiota Research Center (NRC; Director: Prof. Dong Hyun Kim) with the assigned program funding. NRC will receive 6.75 billion KRW in research fund over the next seven years to study the interactive causal mechanism between mental illness and gut microbiota and to develop new pharmaceutical material based on the findings.

New therapeutic possibility for mental illness
In human digestive track, there is a myriad of microbiotas that are harmful and beneficial in a state of balance, and tipping this balance can lead to diverse illnesses. Previously it was understood that gut microbiotas were only responsible for digestive iseases, but new research results seem to suggest that gut microbiotas are more deeply involved in a wider variety of diseases including autoimmune diseases and metabolic diseases like obesity. Furthermore, a possible interrelation has been reported between gut microbiota and mental diseases such as chronic depression and bipolar disorder. These new findings have opened a new avenue of therapeutic possibility to treat mental illnesses. With a possible reduction in side effects for neurological herapy administered through gut microbiota, there is a high expectation for a medical breakthrough with new pharmaceutical materials and drug candidates.


Professor Dong Hyun Kim said, “We used to directly administer drugs that affect the brain, but the new findings on the interaction between mental state and gut microbiota are radically transforming the conventional paradigm of neuropatho

logy. Once we get a definitive idea on how the interactive mechanism works, we will set about developing new drugs to treat mental diseases.”


Kyung Hee pharma experts and clinical doctors make for an ideal convergence research
Professor Kim is an authority in gut microbiota who has studied the subject for over 35 years and made significant contributions in discovering the interrelations between diverse illnesses and gut microbiota. He has made a number of remarkable findings regarding the effect of Korean herbal medicine on gut microbiota, which resulted in a successful commercial launch of a new drug through technology transfer. Professor Kim has recently been working on BK21 Plus projects, managed by the Ministry of Education and NRF, and Fundamental Study of Drug Metabolism, managed by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, on how gut microbiota responds to diverse pharmaceutical agents. In the course of these research efforts, he discovered the interrelation between mental illness and gut microbiota, introducing a radically new concept into the paradigm of neuropathology.


The NRC project will be participated by multiple Kyung Hee professors from the Departments of Pharmacy, Oriental Pharmaceutical Science, and Pharmaceutical Science, as well as clinical experts from Kyung Hee Medical Center including, among others, Professors Hyo Jong Kim (Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology) and Jong Woo Kim (Department of Neuropsychiatry).

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