Monday, August 2, 2010

Caltech Researchers Discover that Gut Bacteria Affect Multiple Sclerosis

I've had a couple blog posts about multiple sclerosis (MS), including links to both viral and bacterial infections. I just came across another study, this one from Caltech, that found that gut bacteria can affect the onset of MS. The researchers found that gut bacteria could influence the creation of Th17 cells (certain kinds of immune helper cells).

The bacteria aren't necessarily the entire cause of the disease, but they may represent the "environmental" component that when combined with genetic susceptibility causes the disease to kick into gear. Here's an excerpt:
Mazmanian and his colleagues don't, however, suggest that gut bacteria are the direct cause of multiple sclerosis, which is known to be genetically linked. Rather, the bacteria may be helping to shape the immune system's inflammatory response, thus creating conditions that could allow the disease to develop. Indeed, multiple sclerosis also has a strong environmental component; identical twins, who possess the same genome and share all of their genes, only have a 25 percent chance of sharing the disease. "We would like to suggest that gut bacteria may be the missing environmental component," he says.
It's amazing that inflammation of something as sterile as the central nervous system and brain could be impacted by what's going on in your gut. But there does indeed seem to be a connection. Hopefully they can find the bacteria (or type of bacteria) that triggers Crohn's Disease as well.

Key proteins that cause Celiac disease discovered

Saw a few articles (ABC News, Geek System) about a study in Melbourne that identified several proteins that cause Celiac Disease. There are apparently three or four different protein fragments that can trigger the disease. Celiac is caused due to an allergic reaction to these proteins. The researchers hope to create an immunotherapy treatment where patients can build up immunity to those proteins. Very interesting development and certainly gives hope for the more than 2 million people in the US that suffer from the disease.

Here's an excerpt about the potential immunotherapy treatment:

Professor Anderson says the findings are being used to develop a new class of drugs, called peptide-based immunotherapy.

This involves injecting patients with a small amount of the toxic peptides to "desensitise" their body to them.

The researchers say the first phase of trials of the therapy to assess safety and tolerability were completed in June, and final results are expected in coming months.

Definitely great news.