Brigham and Women's researchers develop probiotic to treat MS

Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston have developed a probiotic to suppress autoimmunity in the brain, which is behind multiple sclerosis and several other autoimmune diseases. 

They recently tested the probiotic's potential in mice and found it offered, "a more precise way to target brain inflammation with reduced negative side effects compared to standard therapies," according to an Aug. 9 news release. 

The researchers analyzed dendritic cells — which are found in the gastrointestinal tract and around the brain and help regulate the immune system — in the central nervous system of mice to identify a biochemical pathway these types of cells use to prevent other immune cells from attacking the body. They found that the molecule lactate can be used to activate the process in which dendritic cells stop other cells from attacking the immune system. 

The team then genetically engineered a probiotic to produce lactate.

"When a drug is taken, its concentration in the bloodstream peaks after the initial dose, but then its levels go down," said Francisco Quintana, PhD, lead study author and a professor of neurology at Brigham and Women's and Harvard Medical School's Center for Neurologic Diseases. "However, if we can use living microbes to produce medicine from within the body, they can keep producing the active compound as it's needed, which is essential when we consider lifelong diseases that require constant treatment."

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