The gut microbiome is increasingly seen as a key player in serious and chronic neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's — for reasons that are being suggested and explained, but not quite named. Now, researchers propose a term — “mapranosis” — to capture the process by which amyloid proteins produced by certain gut microbes can modify the structure of amyloid proteins in the brain produced by neurons, leading to inflammation in the central nervous system. By giving it a name researchers hope to increase awareness of the gut-brain axis among clinicians and researchers alike, and spur greater investigation into it. "It is critical to define the ways in which gut bacteria and other organisms interact with the host to create disease, as there are many ways in which the microbiota may be altered to influence health," Robert P. Friedland, M.D, the study's lead author and a neurology professor at the University of Louisville, said in a press release. The term — proposed by Friedland and Matthew Chapman, a professor at the University of Michigan — defines the damage caused to proteins and the inflammation that follows by the natural community of microorganisms that reside in our gut. This community, the so-called gut microbiome, is a diverse population of different bacteria, viruses, fungi, archaea and parasites. Certain members of the gut microbiome produce amyloid proteins similar to those produced by neurons. These microbiome-produced proteins have the capacity to alter the structure of the other proteins, increasing the inflammation associated with neurodegeneration. "