Scientists from the Department of Neurology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School have traced a previously observed connection between the gut microbiome, made up of tiny organisms within the digestive system, and multiple sclerosis (MS).
Their research, conducted using genetically modified mice and human subjects, supports the concept changes in food plan, comparable to increasing fiber intake, could potentially slow the progression of MS. The team is now working to guage the impact of dietary interventions on MS patients.
“Unhealthy dietary habits comparable to low fiber and high-fat consumption can have contributed to the steep rise of MS within the US,” said Kouichi Ito, an associate professor of neurology and senior creator of the study published in Frontiers in Immunology. “In nations where people still eat more fiber, MS is much less common.”
MS is a degenerative condition through which the body’s immune system attacks the protective covering of nerves within the brain, spinal cord, and eyes. In line with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, it affects nearly 1 million adults in america.
Several previous studies have differentiated the microbiomes of MS patients and healthy subjects, but, Ito said, all of them noted different abnormalities, so it was inconceivable to inform what change, if any, was driving disease progression.
The Rutgers study, which was led by research associate Sudhir Kumar Yadav, used mice engineered with MS-associated genes to trace the link between alterations within the gut bacteria and an MS-like condition called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE).
As these mice matured — and concurrently developed EAE and a gut inflammatory condition called colitis — the researchers observed increased recruitment of inflammatory cells (neutrophils) to the colon and production of an anti-microbial protein called lipocalin 2 (Lcn-2).
The study team then searched for evidence that the identical process occurred in individuals with MS and located significantly elevated Lcn-2 levels in patients’ stools. This marker correlated with reduced bacterial diversity and increased levels of other markers of intestinal inflammation. Moreover, bacteria that appear to ease inflammatory bowel disease were reduced in MS patients with higher levels of fecal Lcn-2.
The study suggests that fecal Lcn-2 levels could also be a sensitive marker for detecting unhealthy changes within the gut microbiome of MS patients. It also provides further evidence that high-fiber diets, which reduce gut inflammation, may help fight MS.
Rutgers is trying to test that hypothesis soon. Suhayl Dhib-Jalbut, a co-senior creator of the paper who heads the medical school’s neurology department, is recruiting patients with MS for a trial that can determine how their microbiomes and immune systems are affected by a high-fiber complement developed by Rutgers Microbiologist Liping Zhao.
Reference: “Fecal Lcn-2 level is a sensitive biological indicator for gut dysbiosis and intestinal inflammation in multiple sclerosis” by Sudhir K. Yadav, Naoko Ito, John E. Mindur, Hetal Kumar, Mysra Youssef, Shradha Suresh, Ratuja Kulkarni, Yaritza Rosario, Konstantin E. Balashov, Suhayl Dhib-Jalbut and Kouichi Ito, 21 October 2022, Frontiers in Immunology.