Unhealthy gut may be good for MND patients

28 August 2020

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A healthy gut might be impacting the longevity of people living with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), according to new research from The University of Queensland.

But not in the way you may first suspect.

Institute for Molecular Bioscience researchers Professor Naomi Wray and PhD student Restuadi helped show that an unhealthy gut may prolong the life of people living with MND after examining microbiome – microscopic organisms living in the stomach – found in the fecal matter of study participants.

Using stringent control methods, the researchers, led by UQ’s Faculty of Medicine and included researchers from the Queensland Brain Institute and the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, contrasted the composition and diversity of microbiome signatures from 49 participants with MND and 51 healthy controls.

“What we really had hypothesised, or what we thought we would see, is that people with MND might have a different biome to people without MND,” AIBN's Dr Shyuan Ngo said.

“And that this would be linked to a faster disease progression.”

However, the study showed the microbiome found in MND participants was not significantly different from the healthy controls that were matched by age, sex and body mass index.

Instead, the researchers made discoveries to suggest that diet could play a major role in the lifespan of people living with MND as well as their gut microbiome.

“What was really interesting is that those (MND) patients who tended to have a worse biome, which is generally linked with a poorer diet, whether that’s a high-fat, high-calorie diet, these people tended to have a longer disease course, so they actually had longer survival,” Dr Ngo said.

“This is something we had not anticipated.”

Dr Ngo said the study had already sparked a global conversation with labs in the UK and the Netherlands attempting to understand the meaning behind the discovery.

The study was first published in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Frontotemporal Degeneration.

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