UCC study finds link between the gut and Alzheimer’s

18 Oct 2023

Image: © Inna/Stock.adobe.com

The research could be used to detect Alzheimer’s before the onset of typical symptoms, which would open up new treatment avenues for patients with the disease.

A new collaborative study led by University College Cork (UCC) claims there is a link between gut bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers said they have found evidence that Alzheimer’s symptoms can be transferred to a healthy young organism through the gut microbiota – or the living organisms inside the gut.

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, which is the general term for memory loss and other cognitive symptoms serious enough to interfere with daily life. The disease is estimated to account for 60pc to 80pc of all dementia cases.

The study suggests that the physical symptoms of Alzheimer’s could be transferred to young animals through the transplant of gut microbiota. The researchers said animals with gut bacteria that came from people with Alzheimer’s produced fewer new nerve cells and had impaired memory.

The study also detected an inflammation-promoting bacteria, which was found in higher quantities in the faecal samples of people with Alzheimer’s.

The researchers said the study suggests the gut microbiota should be a key target when investigating Alzheimer’s due to its susceptibility to lifestyle and environmental influences. Prof Yvonne Nolan, an investigator with APC Microbiome Ireland and one of the leading researchers in the study, suggested that understanding this connection further could help identify the disease earlier.

“People with Alzheimer’s are typically diagnosed at or after the onset of cognitive symptoms, which may be too late, at least for current therapeutic approaches,” Nolan said. “Understanding the role of gut microbes during prodromal – or early-stage – dementia, before the potential onset of symptoms may open avenues for new therapy development or even individualised intervention,”

Prof Sandrine Thuret of King’s College London and a senior author of the study said the results suggest that our gut microbiota has a “causal role” in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

“This collaborative research has laid the groundwork for future research into this area, and my hope is that it will lead to potential advances in therapeutic interventions,” Thuret said.

APC Microbiome Ireland is a Science Foundation Ireland research centre based at UCC, focused on uncovering the mysteries of gastrointestinal health. Earlier this month, APC investigator Dr María Rodríguez Aburto discussed her research into how the gut microbiome can impact a developing brain and the potential links to neurodevelopmental disorders.

APC recently entered into a new research partnership with dairy producer Fonterra to improve gut health and develop new probiotic products.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic