In a recent breakthrough in their research, Mayo Clinic has discovered that particular gut microbes may have the capability to treat multiple sclerosis, a disease that has gone without a cure since its discovery. Additionally, with this groundbreaking development, researchers are stating that gut bacteria could possibly treat not only Multiple Sclerosis but other serious, autoimmune diseases as well.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a rare, immune-mediated disease that is known for its utter unpredictability and often, debilitating symptoms. MS mainly affects the central nervous system by obstructing the current of information to the brain, therefore altering the information passed from the brain to the body. This disease allows for the immune system to attack a part of the central nervous system called the myelin--an oleaginous substance that insulates and protects the nerve fibers in our body. In an attempt to heal, the myelin will start to form scar tissue. Basically, the body’s immune system turns against and attacks the central nervous system which in turn, affects the function of the spinal cord nerves, the optic nerves, and the brain.
Symptoms of MS include:
These symptoms usually come in waves, but combined, can cause an individual to have trouble walking, talking, and even paralysis. Currently, in the US, there are fewer than 200,00 cases of MS per year.
While there isn’t a cure for MS, researchers from the Mayo Clinic may have discovered a way to use a strain of probiotic bacteria to help improve its symptoms.
Researchers started by looking at the microbiome--the combined genetic material of microorganisms in an environment--of Multiple Sclerosis. They pondered over the possibility of altering the microbiome in an attempt to decrease the overall progression of MS. From there, the doctors of the Mayo Clinic came up with the idea of using a strain of probiotic bacteria to, with hope, change the makeup of the microbiome and alleviate the symptoms of MS.
In their study, researchers took three types of microbe gut bacteria that were cultured from a human intestine and injected them into a mouse model of MS (Source). From multiple tests, they were able to determine that one of the strains, Prevotella histicola, successfully subdued the MS in the mice by reducing the amount of pro-inflammatory cytokines--a type of cell that causes inflammation. Additionally, this strain of probiotic bacteria was able to increase the number of important cell types that help to fight off MS. These cells are known as dendritic cells, T cells, and a form of macrophage--a mobile white blood cell. Not only was there a decrease in inflammation, researchers noticed that the myelin in the MS-infected mice was not being damaged and destroyed as well.
The concept of gut microbes--like probiotics--having the capability to treat diseases in replacement of medicine (bugs as drugs) would be yet another significant advancement in the history of medicine. Furthermore, to be able to treat a disease like MS--that hasn’t found a cure since its discovery--with a relatively simple treatment that doesn’t require astronomically priced medication but a cost-efficient probiotic strain, would be extraordinary. Though this is a monumental step forward in medicine, researchers are heeding caution since there is still plenty of work and experimentation to be done.
The gut health trend through the use of probiotics has become so popular and so significant in recent years. We have seen probiotics being used in drinks, food, and of course, our probiotic cleaning products, to ensure optimal health.
Now, probiotics are being used in treatment regimens for rare, autoimmune diseases and that is absolutely revolutionary. Once again, probiotics keep surprising us with all the versatile ways it can benefit our health.