Gut Health Suspected to Play a Role in the Development of Multiple Sclerosis
Thu, April 22, 2021

Gut Health Suspected to Play a Role in the Development of Multiple Sclerosis

The human microbiome has been of great interest to researchers hoping to find a treatment for various diseases, such as obesity, allergies, cardio-metabolic diseases, and cancer / Photo by: Kateryna Kon via Shutterstock

 

The human microbiome has been of great interest to researchers hoping to find a treatment for various diseases, such as obesity, allergies, cardio-metabolic diseases, and cancer. A new study finds that gut health may also be involved in the development of multiple sclerosis (MS).

Gut Health and the Development of Multiple Sclerosis

Researchers from the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany explained that although it has already been established that MS happens because the body's immune system attacks the central nervous system and the spinal cord, it remains elusive which factors are responsible for the trigger of said immune system malfunction.

In Their Recent Study, They Discovered That It Is the Gut That Plays a Role in the Autoimmune Disease.

Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, the study reads that protein-coding gene Smad7 controls the immune cells in the intestines. Consequently, it triggers inflammation in the central nervous system in their mouse model. Before their findings, they thought that only environmental triggers act as the intestinal barrier to the initiation of autoimmune disorders.

Introduction of Opticospinal Encephalomyelitis in Laboratory Mice

To come up with their conclusion, the team used the C57BL/6 (an inbred strain of laboratory mouse) and analyzed the presence of Smad7 in the intestinal immune cells of the mice, precisely in T-cells. For the next step, they compared the genetically modified mice with the normal ones (no Smad7 in T-cells) and to those with a high quantity of Smad7 in their T-cells. The researchers likewise monitored the mice to know if opticospinal encephalomyelitis (OSE), which is a mouse model of MS, would be developed.

Results show that the animals with an increased level of Smad7 in T-cells had the strongest clinical MS-like symptoms. The T-cells in their intestines were also more frequently activated and moved to the central nervous system. This process triggers the inflammation. On the other hand, mice that did not receive the Smad7 gene protein had no signs of MS.

Prevalence of Multiple Sclerosis

MS is a long-lasting disease that affects the person’s brain, optic nerves in the eyes, and the spinal cord. It can cause problems in the patient’s muscle control, balance, vision, and other basic body functions. 

MS affects about 400,000 people in the US and nearly 2 ½ million worldwide based on the statistics in a 2018 study published by Cleveland Clinic Center for Continuing Education.

MS is a long-lasting disease that affects the person’s brain, optic nerves in the eyes, and the spinal cord. It can cause problems in the patient’s muscle control, balance, vision, and other basic body functions / Photo by: Chutima Chaochaiya via Shutterstock

 

Confirming the Results Using Human Tissue Samples

Steffen Haupeltshofer from Ruhr-University Bochum's Department of Neurology and colleagues confirmed the result of their mouse study using human tissue samples. They took the samples from the intestines of 27 patients diagnosed with MS and compared the findings to the tissue samples taken from 27 individuals without MS (control patients).

Similar changes were identified by the researchers as those they found in the mice model: Smad7 occurred frequently in the intestinal samples of the MS patients compared to the healthy individuals. 

Suppressing the Symptoms of MS

The gut surprise doesn’t just end with the Ruhr-University Bochum findings. Another study from the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston also discovered the relation of the gut microbiome to MS. They believe that the small non-coding RNA molecule found in the microbiome called microRNA can help suppress the symptoms of MS. 

During their experiment, the team took the fecal matter from mice that experienced the peak symptoms of mouse model MS. Then, they transferred it to the other mice with untreated MS. “Unexpectedly,” the transfer of feces harvested during the peak disease protected the recipient from MS.

Upon closer examination, they found that it was not the bacteria that protected the recipient but the microRNA miR-30d. It helps regulates the expression of the enzyme in the Akkermansia muciniphila, an intestinal mucin-degrading bacterium.

Although some people may wonder why someone would give a troublesome microRNA back as a form of treatment or a way of suppressing MS, the researchers explain that the treatment will cause the bacterial strain Akkermansia muciniphila to grow in the gut. The previous study also shows that Akkermansia muciniphila contains anti-inflammatory properties and in response to microRNA, the regulatory T cells will also grow.

Meanwhile, UK's public healthcare provider National Health Service shares that MS can cause a wide range of symptoms. This means that each person with MS can be affected by the condition differently. The symptoms are also unpredictable. Some symptoms worsen and develop steadily over time while others come and go. The most common symptoms include vision problems, fatigue, muscle spasms, numbness and tingling, pain, problems with thinking, planning, and learning, sexual problems, anxiety and depression, speech and swallowing difficulties, bowel problems, and bladder problems.

Most people diagnosed with MS experience a relapsing-remitting disease course, which means that there are periods of relapses or new symptoms may develop over weeks or days.