Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). Researchers at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School published a study suggesting that gut bacteria at young age can contribute to MS disease onset and progression.
In this study, published in the October 31 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sudhir Yadav PhD, a neuroimmunology post-doctoral fellow in the laboratories of Drs. Kouichi Ito, associate professor of neurology, and Suhayl Dhib-Jalbut, professor and chair of neurology, tested mice that were engineered to have a pre-disposition for MS. Because mice would not normally develop MS, researchers used MS-associated risk genes from real patients to genetically engineer mice for this study. Dr. Ito created this unique model of genetically engineered mice to specifically study the cause of MS.
At first, when the genetically modified mice were put in a sterile, germ-free environment, they did not develop MS. When exposed to a normal environment that would normally contain bacteria, the mice did develop MS-like disease and inflammation in their bowels, suggesting gut bacteria is a risk factor that triggers MS disease development.
"The findings could have therapeutic implications on slowing down MS progression by manipulating gut bacteria," says Suhayl Dhib-Jalbut, Director of Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Center for Multiple Sclerosis. Future research could lead to the elimination of harmful types of gut bacteria that wereshown to cause MS progression, or conversely enhance beneficial bacteria that protects from disease progression. The investigators recently received NIH funding to examine their findings in MS patients.