billions of microbes living in your gut could play a key role in
supporting the formation of new nerve cells in the adult brain, with the
potential to possibly prevent memory loss in old age and help to repair
and renew nerve cells after injury, an international research team
spanning Singapore, UK, Australia, Canada, US, and Sweden has
international investigating team led by Principal Investigator
Professor Sven Pettersson, National Neuroscience Institute of Singapore,
and Visiting Professor at Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang
Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), and Sunway
University, Malaysia, found that gut microbes that metabolize
tryptophan—an essential amino acid—secrete small molecules called indoles, which stimulate the development of new brain cells in adults.
Pettersson and his team also demonstrated that the indole-mediated
signals elicit key regulatory factors known to be important for the
formation of new adult neurons in the hippocampus, an area of the brain
also associated with memory and learning. Memory loss is a common sign
of accelerated aging and often an early sign of the Alzheimer's disease
The discovery was published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
finding is exciting because it provides a mechanistic explanation of
how gut-brain communication is translated into brain cell renewal,
through gut microbe produced molecules stimulating the formation of new nerve cells in the adult brain. These findings bring us closer to the possibility of novel treatment options to slow down memory loss,
which is a common problem with aging and neurodegenerative diseases
including but not limited to Alzheimer's disease. These include drugs to
mimic the action of indoles to stimulate the production of new neurons
in the hippocampus or to replace neurons damaged by stroke and spinal injury,
as well as designing dietary intervention using food products enriched
with indoles as a preventive measure to slow down aging," said Prof
work reported in this paper addresses the formation of neurons in the
adult brain. We are currently assessing whether indoles can also
stimulate early formation of neurons during brain development. Another
area of potential intervention interest is in situations of stroke or
spinal injury where there is an urgent need to generate new neurons. It is an interesting and exciting time ahead of us," said Prof Pettersson.
co-author Professor Paul Matthews, Centre Director at UK Dementia
Research Institute at Imperial College London, Edmond and Lily Safra
Chair, NIHR Senior Investigator, and Head of the Department of Brain
Sciences, says that "there is increasing interest in our microbiomes and
the connection between gut and brain health.
This study is another intriguing piece of the puzzle highlighting the
importance of lifestyle factors and diet. Importantly, it also points to
new much-needed treatment opportunities for the diseases that cause
dementia—now the leading cause of death in the UK."
Provided by SingHealth