The trillions of bacteria that live in our intestines, known collectively as the gut microbiome, have been linked to maladies from eye disease to rheumatoid arthritis. Now, two new studies have added another disease: multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disorder that strips away nerve cells’ protective covers, leading to muscle weakness, blindness, and even death.
The researchers […] took naïve immune cells—which transform into different types based on the invaders they encounter—from the blood of healthy individuals and exposed them to bacteria in the guts of MS patients. In the presence of Acinetobacter and Akkermansia, they became a particular type of T helper cell, which trigger inflammation and help the immune system kill off invaders or infected cells.
…[Immunologists] examined the gut microbiomes of 34 sets of identical twins, aged 21 to 63, in which only one twin had MS. […] When the researchers transferred gut microbes from the twins into mice predisposed to develop a disease similar to MS, they found that after 12 weeks, three times as many mice receiving bacteria from MS patients developed brain inflammation as those receiving microbes from healthy donors.
Understanding how intestinal bugs alter the immune response of MS patients could help develop treatments, such as cocktails of anti-inflammatory bacteria or drugs.
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