Scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital released a new report on how certain chemicals in the gut could dramatically impact neurodegenerative disorders. Specifically, this research shows how the waste products of gut bacteria that eat the amino acid tryptophan affect a person’s central nervous system (CNS).
In their study, researchers looked at the effects of gut bacteria on microglia and astrocytes cells in the CNS. The reason scientists looked into these cells is due to the role microglia plays in storing toxic compounds in astrocytes, which are located in the brain. Many doctors believe this process of storing toxins in the brain could lead to diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS).
Investigators first induced a group of mice with MS and then fed a few of them foods with tryptophan. Interestingly, they found that the chemicals produced by gut microbes that ate tryptophan were able to reduce inflammation in mice’s brains. When scientists tried this technique using brain samples from human MS patients, they found the same positive result.
Study authors note that this anti-inflammatory action could dramatically help doctors develop new therapies for MS patients. They also believe their findings could have a positive impact on other neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Brigham researchers are now working on further studies to better understand how certain microbes affect a person’s CNS. Study authors also said they are interested in testing the effects of different strains of probiotics.
MS patients have a faulty immune system that attacks protective myelin sheathes around nerve cells. Common symptoms of MS include dizziness, blurred vision, tingling, and digestive issues.
Current statistics suggest at least 200 Americans are diagnosed with MS every week. Currently, there are 2.5 million people around the world living with this debilitating condition.
While there’s no cure for MS as of today, there are many ways doctors can help patients manage their symptoms. A few popular ways MS patients could overcome their symptoms include daily meditation, avoiding alcohol & smoking, and eating a fresh, nutrient-rich diet.
Francisco Quintana, who teaches in Bringham’s neurology department, was the lead author on this study. A few other key researchers include Drs. Veit Rothhammer, Davis M. Borucki, and Chun-Cheih Chao.
The journal Nature published this article under the title, “Microglial control of astrocytes in response to microbial metabolites.”