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Is our Brain Health Reliant on our Gut?

Summary:

In a recent press release, we detailed our findings that ThaenaBiotics’ microbiome-based therapy significantly extended lifespan and healthspan, and we’ve discussed how our gut microbes influence our behavior, but do these findings extend to neurodegenerative disorders? New research indicates that it might be the case that human’s gut microbiome health is more closely intertwined with their risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease than previously thought. 

In this article we will discuss the collection of new gut-brain publications, and how their findings could influence the approach and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

The last decade has seen microbiome research take center stage with researchers finding that our community of gut microbes greatly influences our health, affecting everything from our risk of developing asthma and metabolic disorders, our immune systems, and our overall lifespan and healthspan. One of the most impactful advances in microbiome research has been the recognition of the gut-brain axis (GBA) and how this two-way signaling pathway can impact mood and behavior. Recently, researchers have begun asking whether microbiome studies can give us better insight into the mechanisms underlying brain disorders. Notably, understanding such a gut-brain connection could provide better therapeutics for debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis (MS). 

Neurodegenerative diseases have enormous personal and economic impact: it is estimated that in the USA today 6.2 million people suffer from AD, 1 million suffer from Parkinson’s, and nearly 1 million people suffer from MS (NIH, 2022; Modglin, 2022). Furthermore, it is estimated that, between medical expenses and economic losses, the annual cost for these diseases amounts to $665 billion (Burke, 2022). Thus, the studies outlined below could be critical in the future of health-care. 

The last decade has seen microbiome research take center stage with researchers finding that our community of gut microbes greatly influences our health, affecting everything from our risk of developing asthma and metabolic disorders, our immune systems, and our overall lifespan and healthspan. One of the most impactful advances in microbiome research has been the recognition of the gut-brain axis (GBA) and how this two-way signaling pathway can impact mood and behavior. Recently, researchers have begun asking whether microbiome studies can give us better insight into the mechanisms underlying brain disorders. Notably, understanding such a gut-brain connection could provide better therapeutics for debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis (MS). 

Neurodegenerative diseases have enormous personal and economic impact: it is estimated that in the USA today 6.2 million people suffer from AD, 1 million suffer from Parkinson’s, and nearly 1 million people suffer from MS (NIH, 2022; Modglin, 2022). Furthermore, it is estimated that, between medical expenses and economic losses, the annual cost for these diseases amounts to $665 billion (Burke, 2022). Thus, the studies outlined below could be critical in the future of health-care. 

Gut Microbes and Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Microbiome studies are notoriously difficult to conduct due to how much variability there is in individuals’ microbial composition, and how sensitive microbiome composition is to environmental factors such as location, frequency of traveling, the presence/absence of pets and other family members, diet, stress, and exercise. This being said, it is unsurprising that while there have been a few MS, gut microbiome studies conducted over the last decade they have had inconsistent results. Recently, the International Multiple Sclerosis Microbiome Study (iMSMS) worked to minimize the environmental factor by designing their study so that their control participants were healthy individuals in the same households as the MS-affected participants, and the results were groundbreaking (iMSMS, 2022). The iMSMS found that people with MS had specific gut microbiome profiles, and many of the identified bacteria are known to affect inflammation in the brain and spinal cord [Table 1].  

Increased Proportion

Properties 

Decreased Proportion

Properties

Akkermansia muciniphila

Reduces gut barrier and insulin resistance (health matters, 2021).

Faecalibacterium prausnitzii

Anti-inflammatory properties (Wexler, 2022).

Ruthenibacterium lactatiformans

Linked to butyrate production, which is a short-chain fatty acid associated with pathways affected in PD, AZ, and strokes Edermaniger, 2022). 

Blautia species

Anti-inflammatory properties, and help alleviate metabolic disorders (Liu et al., 2021)

Hungatella hathewayi

Little is known about this organism, but has been associated with numerous fatalities and chronic neurological symptoms (Hernández-Juárez, 2021).

  

Eisenbergiella tayi

Not much known

  

Table 1. Specific Gut Composition associated with MS patients (iMSMS Consortium, 2022). 

Furthermore, the iMSMS revealed differences in disease severity associated with different bacterial compositions. For instance, Butyrivibrio, Clostridium, Ruminococcus, and bacteria in the Bacteroides group were connected to less severe disease whereas bacteria in the Prevotella and Collinsella aerofaciens groups were connected with more severe disease (iMSMS, 2022). 

Dr. Sergio Baranzini, lead author of the iMSMS study, said that notably, this study found that a large proportion of the bacteria that was associated with MS “seem to play a role in helping humans process fiber from plants (…) [and that] the byproducts from this are increased in MS patients” (Murez, 2022). And, there were differences in the microbial compositions, and concentrations of short-chain fatty acids in the blood and feces of treated versus untreated MS patients. This study is particularly exciting as it is shedding light on how the gut microbiome may contribute to neurodegeneration, and provides a roadmap of where research should go next in order to determine the underlying components that facilitate this degeneration; as Baranzini said, “we can now start to reconstruct which potential pathways are active in patients and controls”” with the ultimate goal of developing targeted therapies to ease, or even treat, MS (Murez, 2022).  

Conclusion

The studies discussed above give greater insight into debilitating diseases which affect millions of people worldwide, and, encouragingly, offer hope of ways to target these diseases through therapeutics such as prebiotics, probiotics, postbiotics, dietary and lifestyle intervention, or fecal transplantation. In fact, one of the long-term goals of the iMSMS study was aiding in developing “designer probiotics”, these would be strains designed in response to an individual’s need and personal microbiota composition. Such designer probiotics would not only be more effective than any current pre-pro-post-biotic that is currently on the market, they would also significantly minimize suffering by offering a fast-track to pain relief / countering symptoms, as patients would not have to go through the often long and arduous process of trying different probiotic strains. And, when discussing debilitating diseases such as MS, time is of the utmost importance. 

To learn more about how InVivo Biosystems is working with science-based wellness companies to develop microbiome-therapies, click here. 

To hear about InVivo Biosystems can aid in your compounds’ development and efficiency testing click here. 

References:

  1. iMSMS Consortium (2022). Gut microbiome of multiple sclerosis patients and paired household healthy controls reveal associations with disease risk and course, Cell 185 (19), P3467-3486. https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(22)01115-1
  2. Health matters (2021). Akkermansia muciniphila, https://healthmatters.io/understand-blood-test-results/akkermansia-muciniphila
  3. Wexler, M. (2022). Gut Bacteria Are Altered in MS, Linked to Disease Progression. News Today. https://multiplesclerosisnewstoday.com/news-posts/2022/09/19/gut-bacteria-are-altered-ms-linked-with-disease-progression/?cn-reloaded=1
  4. Liu, X., Mao, B., Gu, J., Wu, J., Cui, S., Wang, G., Zhao, J., Zhang, H., & Chen, W. (2021). Blautia-a new functional genus with potential probiotic properties?. Gut microbes, 13(1), 1–21. https://doi.org/10.1080/19490976.2021.1875796
  5. Burke, J. (2022). NEURODEGENERATIVE DISEASE COSTS EXCEED $655 BILLION A YEAR IN MEDICAL EXPENSES AND ECONOMIC LOSSES. Partnership to fight chronic disease, https://www.fightchronicdisease.org/latest-news/neurodegenerative-disease-costs-exceed-655-billion-year-medical-expenses-and-economic#:~:text=Latest%20news-,NEURODEGENERATIVE%20DISEASE%20COSTS%20EXCEED%20%24655%20BILLION%20A,MEDICAL%20EXPENSES%20AND%20ECONOMIC%20LOSSES
  6. Edermaniger, L. (2022). Butyrate Foods: Butyrate Benefits And What Foods Contain Butyrate, atlas blog, https://atlasbiomed.com/blog/butyrate-foods-butyrate-benefits-and-what-foods-contain-butyrate/
  7. Hernández-Juárez, L. E., Camorlinga, M., Méndez-Tenorio, A., Calderón, J. F., Huang, B. C., Bandoy, D., Weimer, B. C., & Torres, J. (2021). Analyses of publicly available Hungatella hathewayi genomes revealed genetic distances indicating they belong to more than one species. Virulence, 12(1), 1950–1964. https://doi.org/10.1080/21505594.2021.1950955
  8. Murez, C. (2022). Gut Microbiome Could Play Role in MS. US News, https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2022-09-26/gut-microbiome-could-play-role-in-ms
  9. NIH (2022). Neurodegenerative Diseases, NIH, https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/health/neurodegenerative/index.cfm#:~:text=Neurodegenerative%20diseases%20affect%20millions%20of,Alzheimer’s%20Disease%20Association%20in%202022.
  10. Modglin, Lindsay (2022). Multiple sclerosis statistics 2022, SingleCare, https://www.singlecare.com/blog/news/multiple-sclerosis-statistics/#:~:text=Nearly%201%20million%20people%20in,can%20occur%20at%20any%20age.

About The Author

Alexandra Narin

Alexandra is a Content Marketing Specialist and Grant Writer for InVivo Biosystems. She graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2020 where she earned a Joint MA Honours Degree in English & Psychology/Neuroscience with BPS [British Psychology Society] Accreditation. She has worked as a research assistant, examining the LEC's (lateral entorhinal cortex) involvement in spatial memory and integrating long term multimodal item-context associations, and completed her dissertation on how the number and kinds of sensory cues affect memory persistence across timescales. Her hobbies include running, boxing, and reading.

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