APR 25, 2018 08:49 AM PDT

Cleaning out Gut Bacteria may Improve Heart Failure

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

We have as many bacterial cells in our bodies as we do human cells, and those bacteria have a powerful impact on our health. Researchers have been exploring the many processes affected by the microbial community in our gastrointestinal tract, the gut microbiome. New findings have indicated that completely wiping the gut clean of bacteria could be beneficial for the heart and may slow damage that happens during heart failure.

This is an infographic describing research on the communication between the gut and the heart. / Credit: Francisco Carrillo-Salinas, PhD

It is thought that the microorganisms living in the gut increase the production of immune agents called T cells and thereby impact heart failure. In mice that model heart failure, antibiotic treatment over five weeks sterilized their guts and improved their outcomes. The findings have been presented at the 2018 meeting of Experimental Biology at the American Society for Investigative Pathology annual meeting.

"Our lab studies how the gut talks to the heart through T cells," said Francisco J. Carrillo-Salinas, Ph.D., a postdoctoral scholar at Tufts University who conducted the research. "Given that the gut is the body's largest reservoir of T cells and microbes, by modulating the microbiota we could modulate T cell activation and changes in the heart that lead to heart failure."

In heart failure, the heart can’t pump enough blood to the body. Almost 6 million people in the US have heart failure, and around half of those who are diagnosed die within five years.

Previous research has identified a link between the gut microbiome and cardiovascular health, as explained in the video. 

Carrillo-Salinas and collaborators have found that T cells penetrate into the heart in people that are experiencing heart failure. 

Antibiotics are known to affect the gut microbiome, so researchers exposed mice modeling heart failure as well as normal mice to antibiotics, while some mice were untreated. The team assessed markers of heart function and immune activity in these mice. 

Mice that both received antibiotics and modeled heart failure were better able to pump blood and had less tissue damage in their hearts compared to mice that did not get antibiotics.

"Because complete sterilization of the gut has proven to ameliorate some experimental models of T cell-mediated diseases, our results were in agreement with our initial hypothesis," explained Carrillo-Salinas. "The fact that we see fully preserved heart function is surprising, and I am looking forward to exciting new data on what happens in the heart once different bacteria recolonize the gut."

This work suggests that in the lymph nodes closest to the heart, T cells are activated, which then migrate to the heart and stop the progression of heart failure as they release cytokines. That enlarges the heart, and scar tissue is formed. In mice that had received antibiotics, none of these changes were observed.

"Understanding how the gut microbiota directly regulates the function of distant organs such as the heart will shed new light into potential new therapeutic approaches in patients recently diagnosed with heart failure to prevent progression," added Carrillo-Salinas. "Our results demonstrate that gut microbiota depletion prevents cardiac dysfunction and sets the stage for future studies that will determine which components of the microbiota are responsible for heart failure progression."


Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via Experimental Biology 2018

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
JUL 17, 2018
Microbiology
JUL 17, 2018
Understanding how Microbes Will Accelerate Climate Change
As permafrost starts to thaw out, it's exposing untold numbers of new bacteria, which can spew out methane....
JUL 24, 2018
Microbiology
JUL 24, 2018
Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Raw Turkey Products
Researchers at the CDC are trying to learn more about a rash of Salmonella infections....
AUG 02, 2018
Microbiology
AUG 02, 2018
As Earth Warms, Soil 'Breathes' Harder
Temperatures are on the rise, and it seems soil will become another factor in how our climate changes....
AUG 25, 2018
Videos
AUG 25, 2018
Bacterial Memories
Some bacteria have a way of remembering things like antibiotics, which helps them escape future encounters....
SEP 12, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 12, 2018
Tightening Control of Bacterial Gene Expression
Controlling gene expression will improve the production of important molecules in bacteria, like therapeutics or biofuels....
SEP 26, 2018
Immunology
SEP 26, 2018
What Superbug? A New Antibiotic Contender
Scientists from a biotechnology corporation, Genentech, have altered a protein that blocks a signaling pathway in gram-negative bacteria to engineer a new antibiotic, currently called G0775,...
Loading Comments...