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Glowing Green Guts

To untangle the links between guts and brains, some scientists are starting small: with the tiny transparent worm C. Elegans, whose guts glow green and neurons glow orange in this composite illustration and microscope image. In a recent study, Duke professor Alejandro Aballay and graduate student Xiou Cao showed that neurotransmitters – small molecules that carry signals in the brain – impact immunity in the gut. Specifically, they found that increasing dopamine made the worm’s guts more vulnerable to infection from pathogenic bacteria and vice versa. If replicated in humans, these findings could point to new treatments for immune and intestinal diseases.