HSCI researchers study how the gut microbiome affects ALS and the aging brain
By studying two disease models at the same time, Harvard Stem Cell Institute scientists discovered a new gut-brain connection in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurodegenerative disease associated with aging. Led by HSCI Principal Faculty member Kevin Eggan, Ph.D., the researchers found that in mice with a common ALS genetic mutation, changing the gut microbiome
using antibiotics or fecal transplants could prevent or improve disease symptoms. Their findings provide a potential explanation for why only some individuals carrying the mutation develop ALS, and point to a possible therapeutic approach based on the microbiome.
“Our study focused on the most commonly mutated gene in patients with ALS. We made the remarkable discovery that the same mouse model — with identical genetics — had substantially different health outcomes at our different lab facilities,” Eggan said. “We traced the different outcomes to distinct gut microbial communities in these mice, and now have an intriguing hypothesis for why some individuals carrying this mutation develop ALS while others do not.”
Different facilities, different outcomes
Searching the gut microbiome
Expanding the gut-brain connection
mutation develop ALS, the related condition frontotemporal dementia, or no symptoms at all — and could be a potential target for therapy.