Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The gut microbiome can instruct brain cells to fight neuroinflammation.

I perk up whenever I see a reference relevant to 'inflamaging,' the slow rise of cellular inflammation that accompanies - as I am too well aware in my own case - aging. Neuroflammation is an underlying component of dementias and alzheimer's disease. Sanmarco et al. at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston have now discovered a new subset of brain cells that fight inflammation with instructions from the gut microbiome. Here are excerpts from their research brief that are a bit easier to follow than the technical abstreact of the article:
Astrocytes are the most abundant type of cells within the central nervous system (CNS).. Researchers have long assumed that astrocytes’ primary function is to provide nutrients and support for the brain’s more closely scrutinized nerve cells; over the years, however, increasing evidence has shown that astrocytes can also actively promote neurodegeneration, inflammation, and neurological diseases. Now, a team led by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, has shown that a specific astrocyte sub-population can do the opposite, instead serving a protective, anti-inflammatory function within the brain based on signals regulated by the bacteria that reside in the gut.
The researchers used refined gene- and protein-analysis tools to identify the novel astrocyte subset. The astrocyte population resides close to the meninges (the membrane enclosing the brain) and expresses a protein called LAMP1, along with a protein called TRAIL, which can induce the death of other cells. These features help the LAMP1+TRAIL+ astrocytes limit CNS inflammation by inducing cell death in T-cells that promote inflammation... They found that a particular signaling molecule, called interferon-gamma, regulates TRAIL expression. Moreover, they found that the gut microbiome induces the expression of interferon-gamma in cells that circulate through the body and ultimately reach the meninges, where they can promote astrocyte anti-inflammatory activities.
Understanding the mechanisms driving the anti-inflammatory functions of LAMP1+TRAIL+ astrocytes could enable researchers to develop therapeutic approaches to combat neurological diseases, like multiple sclerosis. For example, they are exploring probiotic candidates that can be used to regulate the astrocytes’ anti-inflammatory activity.

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