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3.6 The gut microbiome: sentinel of the northern environment and Inuit mental health

Principal Investigators

Richard Bélanger, Gina Muckle


Pierre Ayotte, Michel Bergeron, Marc Hébert, Mélanie Lemire, Michel Lucas, Pierre Marquet, Chantal Mérette, Marie-Claude Vohl


Maurice Boissinot, Jacques Corbeil, Christopher Fletcher, André Marette

Collaborators outside U. Laval

Olivier Boucher (U. de Montréal), Sylvaine Cordier (France), Mylène Riva (McGill U.)

Project summary

The proposed project is based on findings from previous Nunavik Inuit health survey conducted in 1992 and 2004, which have documented cumulative exposure to adversity among communities (environmental contaminants, food insecurity, victimization, substance use), and high prevalence of psychological distress. Focusing on the 16-30 years old participants from the next population based Nunavik Inuit health survey to be conducted in 2017, this project aims to examine the role of gut microbiome in the association between adversity and mental health. Using the study's global evaluation of health to explore gut microbiome profiles, their association with depressive state will be evaluated using case-control design. The same microbiome profiles will then be link to diverse source and level of adversity lived by young Inuit from Nunavik, but also to several biological markers. As a possible explanation to expected associations, neuronal resiliency specific to Inuit from Nunavik will be explored.

As an addition to current efforts taking place in the communities, this project includes in its budget, in addition to a strong transdisciplinary academic plan for students:

1) the collection and analysis of fecal samples used to identify microbiome profiles,

2) the analysis of metabolome and inflammatory biomarkers,

3) the use of electroretinography as an novel indicator of mental health problems and

4) neuronal culture from induced pluripotent stem cells, and 5) the latest and most performing analytical processes.

A more comprehensive understanding of mental health problems by integrating involved internal and external environmental aspects of human total exposure is anticipated. Novel markers of adversity, but eventually of psychological distress are projected. Researchers and partners to the project aim to carry both innovation and factors of resilience at the population level.