A team of researchers at Lund University in Sweden have found that some types of intestinal bacteria can speed up the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. According to the study researchers, their findings give hope that new treatments can be found – and that they could pave the way to preventing the disease altogether. The study was led by Frida Fak Hallenius of the Food for Health Science Center at Lund and includes researchers from Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium.
Evidence already existed that showed links between gut bacteria and brain function, so Fak Hallenius and colleagues decided they would investigate whether intestinal bacteria might lead to the development or progression of Alzheimer’s disease. They studied mice that were previously healthy and those with Alzheimer’s disease, and they placed intestinal bacteria from both healthy and diseased mice into mice that didn’t have any intestinal bacteria at all.
The first step was to study the intestinal bacteria of mice that had Alzheimer’s disease and mice without it. They found that the mice with Alzheimer’s had more of the “bad” bacteria in their intestines than those that didn’t have Alzheimer’s. That discovery led the researchers to the next step.
The second step was to start with mice that had been raised to have no intestinal bacteria at all and then give them intestinal bacteria from either diseased or healthy mice. What they found then is that the mice that received intestinal bacteria from mice with Alzheimer’s disease developed more beta-amyloid plaques in the brain than the mice that received bacteria from healthy mice. Beta-amyloid plaques are one of the major signs of Alzheimer’s disease. These plaques build up in the brain and make it difficult for the neurons to function as they should.
Fak Hallenius talked about what their research meant. She said their study was unique because it showed “a direct causal link between gut bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease.” She and her colleagues at the Food for Health Science Center at Lund University are going to begin studying whether it’s possible to prevent Alzheimer’s or at least delay the onset of the disease. The team considers their findings to be a significant breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research because, in the past, the only treatment was, according to Fak Hallenius, “to give symptom-relieving antiretroviral drugs.”
You can read more about their study linking Alzheimer’s to gut bacteria in the online journal Scientific Reports.
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