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Bowel Diseases Related to Multiple Sclerosis

Inflammatory bowel diseases have an impact on the prognosis of multiple sclerosis, according to a study published in PLOS One.

There is a connection between multiple sclerosis (MS) and increased permeability of the intestines — also known as “leaky gut syndrome” – according to a study published September 25, 2014 in PLOS One.

Researchers from the Lund University in Sweden studied intestinal tissue from mice infected with a disease similar to MS. The mice were females aged 8-10 weeks and were given anesthesia to minimize suffering. The mice were rated on a experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) scale of 8 categories: 0- no signs of clinical diseases; 1- weakness in the tail; 2- paralyzed tail; 3- paresis and gait disturbance; 4- paralysis of one limb; 5- paralysis of 2 limbs; 6- 2 limbs paralyzed and paresis of a third limb, but mouse is still able to move; 7- quadriplegia, no mobility, and moribund state; 8- dead. At the end of the experiment, the mice were anesthetized and chilled, so their tissue could be dissected.

The mice displayed symptoms of both leaky gut syndrome and increased inflammation of the mucous membranes in the intestines. The mice were then infected with MS, and the scientists observed structural changes to the small intestine. The inflammatory T-cells of the mice increased, while simultaneously the number of regulatory immune response T-cells decreased. The inflammatory response appeared to increase as the MS-like disease progressed.

“To our surprise, we saw structural changes in the mucous membrane of the small intestine and an increase in inflammatory T-cells, known as Th1 and Th17,” Shahram Lavasani, PhD, an author on the study, said in a press release. “At the same time, we saw a reduction in immunosuppressive cells, known as regulatory T-cells. These changes are often linked to inflammatory bowel diseases, and biologically active molecules produced by Th1 and Th17 are believed to be behind this damage to the intestines.”

From earlier work, the researchers learned that probiotic bacteria may offer a type of protection against MS. The gut had previously been implicated in research looking at the development of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

“Back then, the scientists and professionals did not believe in involvement of the gastrointestinal tract in development of ‘extraintestinal’ autoimmune diseases,” Lavasani told Healthline.

The authors hope their research can contribute to new treatment methods that can heal the mucous membrane in the intestine. They believe that by halting the spread of the inflammatory cycle, they can stop the spread of both diseases.

“In the long run, we hope that our findings will lead to better understanding of what actually happens in the development of MS,” Lavasani concluded. “Looking even further to the future, we hope for the development of a better treatment that aims at the intestinal barrier as a new therapeutic target.”