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Friday, July 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Sulfur-based metabolites consumed by gut bacteria could be linked to neurodegenerative diseases

Researchers point to the metabolite compound DHPS as a missing link into the investigation into diseases like ALS and Parkinson's but the exact pathways remain unclear.

(CN) — Researchers with the American Society for Microbiology think that there may be a link between a chemical metabolized by the bacteria in the digestive system, known as DHPS, and three neurodegenerative diseases.

Presented at ASM Microbe, the society's annual meeting, on Sunday, the research is one of the first to heavily examine the interplay between certain organic chemicals broken down by the gut biome and neurological diseases in humans.

Previous studies on the gut biome and neurodegenerative diseases have conducted fecal transplants in mice, which showed that transplant of clean human samples into a mouse’s colon can alleviate neurodegenerative disease progression in the animal and that transplant of diseased samples can impair the mouse’s memory function.

In this latest study, the multi-institution team — comprised of researchers from Netellis, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and led by principal investigator Chris Ellis — examined stool samples from a control group and from a group of patients diagnosed with one of three serious neurodegenerative diseases: Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, and Parkinson’s disease.

“These findings suggest the gut microbiome plays an important role in the onset and progression of at least some neurodegenerative diseases," Ellis said in a statement.

In particular, Ellis and the team looked for distinct bacterial and metabolite profiles in the gut biomes of those neurodegenerative disease patients. Analysis of the stool samples revealed nineteen markers for neurodegeneration in all three groups, with a broad range of unique markers for each disease: twenty for ALS, sixteen for Alzheimer’s, and nine for Parkinson’s.

The team also found links to two bacteria groups, Bilophilia and Desulfovibrio, that play a role in synthesizing and breaking down DHPS, a very abundant organic sulfur compound. Their analysis pointed to increased levels of Bilophilia and decreased concentrations of DHPS in the neurodegenerative disease patients’ samples.

Bilophilia can break DHPS down into hydrogen sulfide, the odorant chemical that gives a putrid smell to rotten eggs and is added to natural gas for safety. And hydrogen sulfide has been linked to mitochondria dysfunction, a known contributing factor on neurodegenerative diseases, among many other neurodegenerative disease hallmarks.

According to researchers, these findings could mark yet another possible avenue of spotting, diagnosing and managing these diseases early.

Categories / Health, Science

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