Study: Diet has an effect on the MS disease course

March 12, 2020
A new study found the application of propionic acid, in addition to multiple sclerosis medication, lowered the relapse rate and the risk of disability progression in the long term. Moreover, initial MRI studies showed propionic acid may reduce brain atrophy as a sign of neuronal cell death. 

The gut microbiome plays an important role in health, but its link to chronic diseases, such as MS, has only recently been appreciated. In the study, researchers from the Department of Neurology of Ruhr-Universität Bochum at St. Josef-Hospital successfully applied the results of previous experimental models to their MS patients: short-chain fatty acids such as propionic acid increased the differentiation and function of regulatory T cells in the gut. 

The study showed the microbiome composition is altered in MS patients. Moreover, they found a deficiency of propionic acid in MS patients, which was most pronounced in the earliest phases of the disease.

In collaboration with researchers from the Bar-Ilan University in Israel, who developed an intestinal model for microbiome analysis, researchers found propionate acid-linked changes of the gut microbiome play a crucial role in the differentiation of regulatory cells. The increased function of these cells was because of their improved energy use through an altered function of the mitochondria.

The results were published in the journal Cell.

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