MAY 18, 2019 05:36 PM PDT

Altering the Gut Microbiome Relieves Alzheimer's Symptoms in Mice

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Scientists know that the microbes in our gastrointestinal tract, collectively known as the gut microbiome, have a powerful impact on our health and well-being. Investigations of the close connections between the gut and the brain have indicated that there may be a link between the gut microbiome and Alzheimer’s disease. Now researchers have used a mouse model of the disease to show that by altering the microbiome with antibiotics, the development of Alzheimer’s disease can be halted. Long-term exposure to antibiotics reduced inflammation and amyloid plaque growth in male mouse brains. One important caveat, however, is that the same effect was not observed in female mice. The findings have been reported in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Long-term antibiotic treatment (right) reduces amyloid plaque size (green), alters microglia (red) in the brains of male mice compared to control (left). / Credit: Dodiya et al., 2019

"Recent evidence suggests that intestinal bacteria could play a major role in various neurological conditions including autism spectrum disorders, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease," noted Professor Sangram S. Sisodia, director of the Center for Molecular Neurobiology at The University of Chicago.

Amyloid plaques in the brain, as well as the activation of a type of brain immune cell called microglia, are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. While microglia can help get rid of plaques, they may also make the disease worse by inducing neuroinflammation. Scientists have previously determined that changes in the gut microbiome are observed in Alzheimer’s patients; preliminary work by Sisodia’s team suggested that gut flora can affect the disease. "While compelling, our published studies on the role of the gut microbiome on amyloid plaque formation were limited to a single strain of mice," Sisodia acknowledged.

Related: Alzheimer's Linked to a Gum Disease-associated Bacterium

In this work, Sisodia and colleagues used a different mouse model of Alzheimer's. In these male mice, the antibiotic treatment reduced amyloid plaques formation in males but didn’t impact female mice. In the males, microglia were changed to a state that didn’t promote neuroinflammation. The findings were confirmed by transplanting gut microbiota from treated to untreated mice, which had the same impact on the disease symptoms.

Learn more about the links between Alzheimer's disease and the gut microbiome from the video above.

The antibiotics appear to have different effects on the gut microbiota of male and female mice. In females, the drugs raised the levels of proinflammatory factors that may play a role in microglia activation.

"Our study shows that antibiotic-mediated perturbations of the gut microbiome have selective, sex-specific influences on amyloid plaque formation and microglial activity in the brain," Sisodia said. "We now want to investigate whether these outcomes can be attributed to changes in any particular type of bacteria."

The video above discusses the connection between the gastrointestinal tract and our central nervous system - the gut-brain axis.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Rockefeller University, Journal of Experimental Medicine

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JUN 20, 2019
Microbiology
JUN 20, 2019
Mathematicians Describe Microbial Movement
Swarming behavior has been observed throughout biology; cells, insects, and birds, for example, have all been observed exhibiting the behavior....
JUN 20, 2019
Microbiology
JUN 20, 2019
In Space, Dormant Viruses Can Reactivate
Some astronauts have lived onboard the International Space Station for hundreds of days. Researchers are learning more about the things that can happen in that time....
JUN 20, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
JUN 20, 2019
Plastic Pollution Disrupts Critical Oxygen-generating Microbes
Tiny photosynthetic microbes in the world's oceans are thought to produce nearly half of the oxygen we breathe....
JUN 20, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
JUN 20, 2019
Watching the Transfer of Drug Resistance in Bacteria
Using fluorescence, researchers visualized the spread of antibiotic resistance among bacteria - in the presence of antibiotics....
JUN 20, 2019
Microbiology
JUN 20, 2019
Another Study Links the Gut Microbiome to Autism
As of 2018, around one in five 8-year-olds were impacted by autism spectrum disorder....
JUN 20, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
JUN 20, 2019
Creating Universal Donor Blood With a Microbial Enzyme
Hospitals must always maintain a supply of the various blood types that patients might need, and right now there is a critical shortage....
Loading Comments...