Brain disorder treatments have always focused on the most obvious target, the brain itself. Now, researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine have reported that neurological disorders may be treated with microbiome-based therapies, or gut targeting treatments.
Dr. Mauro Costa-Mattioli, Professor and Cullen Foundation Endowed Chair in Neuroscience and Director of the Memory and Brain Research Center at Baylor, along with his team, discovered that symptoms of neurological disorders are associated with both the host’s genes and microbiome.
Through experimentation with mouse models, the researchers found that hyperactivity is linked to the host’s genetics, whereas social behavior is connected to the host’s microbiome. The mouse models who received treatment with Limosilactobacillus Reuteri, or a metabolite of it, showed improved signs in their social behavior.
As the treatment affected social behavior and not the hyperactivity, researchers believe that there may be treatment options for disorders in which symptoms have a distinctive microbiome origin. This could also mean that treatments need to target both the brain and microbiome.
Co-first author Shelly Buffington, PhD, a former postdoctoral fellow at Baylor who is currently Assistant Professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston stated, “Our work strengthens an emerging concept of a new frontier for the development of safe and effective therapeutics that target the gut microbiome with selective probiotic strains of bacteria or bacteria-inspired pharmaceuticals.”
The work of Dr. Costa-Mattioli and his team has brought about new possibilities in the treatment of neurological disorders. It also encourages exploration into other conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and viral infections that may have microbiome implications.
Researchers hope to put this new information to work modulating the microbiome as opposed to the difficult task of gene manipulation. As the information is still relatively new, investigators are eagerly following any information on the implications of this gut-targeting treatment. Currently the probiotic L. reuteri, which was used in the Baylor study, is being tested in Italy in children with autism. With the newly found connection between the microbiome and social behavior, researchers are faced with a wealth of possibilities in treating various neurological disorders.