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Gut microbes may improve stroke recovery

A new study has revealed that microorganisms in our gut may help protect brain cells from damage caused by inflammation after a stroke.

The study revealed that supplementing the body’s short chain fatty acids may improve stroke recovery.

Short chain fatty acids are produced by the community of bacteria that live in the gut – collectively known as the microbiome. They are a key component of gut health. This is the first time the microbiome’s role in stroke recovery has been explored, although it is known that it can also influence brain health and the central nervous system.

“There is a growing amount of evidence that inflammation can be influenced by the microbiome, and now we are learning how it affects neuroinflammation after brain injury,” says Ann Stowe, UK associate professor in the Department of Neurology and co-author of the study.

The researchers added short chain fatty acids to the drinking water of mice, and found that those that drank the water experienced a better stroke recovery. The supplemented mice displayed reduced motor impairment, as well as increased spine growth on the dendrites of nerve cells, which are crucial for memory structure. They also expressed more genes related to microglia, the brain’s immune cells. This relationship indicates that short chain fatty acids may serve as messengers in the gut-brain connection by influencing how the brain responds to injury.

These results could be promising news for stroke patients – currently, there are only two FDA-approved treatments for acute stroke, and no effective therapeutics to promote long-term repair to the brain after stroke damage.

A short chain fatty acid dietary supplement may be a safe and practical additional therapy for stroke rehabilitation, Stowe says.

“If we can confirm that a dietary supplement could be beneficial to inflammation and recovery after stroke, it could positively impact so many lives. We have nearly 800,000 people a year in the U.S. who are affected by stroke,” said Stowe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that stroke is also the number one cause of adult disability and the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Stowe says the research collaboration with Dr. Arthur Liesz’ group in Munich is ongoing and next steps are to focus on additional behavioral tests as well as examining some of the specific immune cell populations that are affected by short chain fatty acids.


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