The gut microbiota may hold the key to treating or preventing cognitive deterioration.
For the first time in an animal model of Alzheimer’s disease, new study in mice establishes a solid causal link between alterations in the gut microbiota and behavioral and cognitive abnormalities.
The research, which was published today in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, implies that using probiotics to treat and perhaps prevent signs of dementia linked with neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s might open up new paths.
Scientists from Oregon Health & Science University led the study.
“We discovered that fecal implants modulate the gut microbiota in germ-free mice, causing behavioral and cognitive alterations in an Alzheimer’s disease model,” stated senior author Jacob Raber, Ph.D., professor of behavioral neuroscience at OHSU. “To my knowledge, no one has ever shown it in an Alzheimer’s disease model.”
The findings build on a previous OHSU research in mice released last year, which found a link between the gut microbiome’s makeup and the behavioral and cognitive performance of mice harboring genes linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers used fecal implants to precisely regulate the digestive tracts of mice in this new study.
They discovered differences in behavior and cognition across three genotypes, as well as between men and females. Two of the genotypes implicated are linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease in adults.
Researchers discovered that alterations in the gut microbiota had a significant impact on behavioral and cognitive changes in mice.
The findings shows that targeted use of probiotics or fecal transplants, which have previously been used to modify the gut microbiome in individuals, might help prevent dementia. However, given the association between these effects and the gut microbiota is altered by genotype and sex, Raber believes that much more study is needed to determine the mechanism underlying these behavioral and cognitive consequences.
“People may purchase probiotics over the counter,” Raber said, “but we want to make sure the proper therapy is utilized for each patient and that it helps them.” “The gut microbiota is a complicated ecosystem. Because changing one factor can affect other parts, be important to choose a probiotic that supports brain health and function while minimizing any unwanted side effects for each patient.”
The National Institutes of Health awarded R56 AG057495-01, RF1 AG059088, R21 AG065914, T32 AG055378, T32 ES007060, and the Collins Medical Trust sponsored the study.