Link between gut flora and multiple sclerosis discovered

October 15, 2018
A new study suggests gut microbes could play a far greater role in the origin and development of multiple sclerosis than previously assumed. The findings suggest it is worth broadening research perspectives to gain a better understanding of the disease.

Scientists from the University of Zurich report that T cells react to a protein called GDP-L-fucose synthase. This enzyme is formed in human cells as well as in bacteria frequently found in the gastrointestinal flora of patients suffering from MS. The study’s authors hope these findings can be translated into therapy. They plan to test the immunoactive components of GDP-L-fucose synthase using an approach that the researchers have been pursuing for several years already.

The clinical approach of the research group involves drawing blood from MS patients in a clinical trial and then attaching the immunoactive protein fragments onto the surface of red blood cells in a laboratory. When the blood is reintroduced into the bloodstream of patients, the fragments help to "re-educate" their immune system and make it "tolerate" its own brain tissue. This therapeutic approach aims for effective targeted treatment without severe side effects.

The approach differs radically from other treatments that are currently available, which throttle the whole immune system. While these treatments often succeed in stopping the progression of the disease, they also weaken the immune system – and can thus cause severe side effects.

The findings were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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