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Study finds fatty acids may play key role in MS

10/23/2015

In a new study, researchers found that short-chain fatty acids decreased MS symptoms in mice. They also found that gut bacteria are key to the process and it is their metabolic products that are important to the production of regulatory T cells that reduce inflammation. The authors argue their findings may help improve MS treatments.

Dietary fatty acids affect the development and progression of autoimmune chronic-inflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Researchers, led by Aiden Haghikia of the Department of Neurology at Ruhr-University Bochum, in Germany, found that in the mouse model of MS, long-chain fatty acids promote the development and propagation of inflammatory cells in the intestinal wall. They also found that short-chain fatty acids lead to the development and propagation of regulatory cells, which have the ability to regulate excessive inflammatory responses and autoreactive immune cells.

Researchers did not find any effects of dietary fatty acids once the intestine was entirely germ-free. The authors say that this suggests the intestinal microbiome is directly involved in the mechanism of fatty acid action. Further experiments showed that it is the metabolic products of the microbiome rather than a single bacterial strain which is responsible for the effects.

Results of mouse model studies sometimes do not translate to humans and may be years away from being a marketable treatment. However, the authors plan to use the discoveries to develop new dietary add-on therapies to established immunotherapies in MS.

The results were published in the journal Immunity.



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