A new paper: the gut microbiome contributes to opioid dependence

Our new study is out now in the journal NeuropsychopharmacologyHere we examined the impact of opioids (morphine) on the community of symbiotic bacteria that reside in your gut (your gut microbiome). You can read more about this work in the recent news releases out Gut microbiome figure 1in Nature Medicine and Pain Research Forum.

We found that morphine treatment significantly altered the abundance of certain bacteria in the gut. But, surprisingly, the effect on the gut microbiome was contingent on the regimen of morphine administration. Intermittent morphine (morphine injections spaced by repeated periods of withdrawal) had a completely different effect on the gut microbiome than sustained morphine (slow release morphine with no withdrawal periods). This suggests that opioid withdrawal – as well as opioids themselves – impact the gut microbiome, but do so in very distinct ways.

We went on to show that these changes in the gut microbiome are causally related to many of the symptoms of opioid dependence. We did this by treating control mice with a cocktail of oral antibiotics in order to deplete their own gut microbiome. We then recolonized their gut with fecal samples isolated from animals treated with intermittent

gut microbiome figure 2.jpg

morphine. Recolonizing control mice with an “opioid” microbiome was sufficient to create cellular and behavioural changes that mimic an opioid dependent state. Control mice with an “opioid” gut microbiome exhibited inflammation in the brain and spinal cord, increased pain, and impairments in reward processing.

The results from this study are important because it suggests strategies that restore or manipulate the gut microbiome may be effective therapies for treating those suffering from opioid addiction. In particular, strategies to improve gut health during periods of opioid withdrawal may improve abstinence rates amongst those suffering from addiction.

The Taylor lab’s newest addition

Despite the lack of activity on this site, the Taylor lab is in full swing. We have an animal protocol, reagents, and fridges! We had two new graduate students join the lab in IMG_6349.JPGSeptember (updates to come soon), along with several undergraduate researchers.

Last April, baby Willa made her appearance and took the honour as the the youngest Taylor lab member. While she’s a little young to pipette, she enjoys accompanying her mum (Anna) to the lab on occasion. Anna has been on maternity leave since April, and will be back in the lab full time in January.

If you are headed to SfN, come check out our newest data on Monday, November 5th in the session “Defining Dysbiosis in Disorders of Movement and Motivation” 8:30 am, where Anna will be presenting our project examining opioid-induced gut dysbiosis and the causal relationship with opioid dependent behaviours.


We have a lab


The walls have arrived, and we’re starting to look like a functional lab. Our first team of undergraduate students have been working hard at unpacking boxes and organizing chemicals.


Check oIMG_8183ut our brand new solution-making station. Next step – making some solutions!


Lab Renovations are underway

IMG_2107 3Well, I’m happy to say that I have a lab space. With windows to boot! Renovations are underway and we’re on track to be open for business as of September 2017. I’m looking forward to seeing those bench tops filled with equipment and students!