Micro-organisms in our gut could help protect brain cells from damage caused by inflammation after a stroke, according to a new research.
The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, by researchers from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the University of Kentucky and the University of Texas, reveals that supplementing the body's short chain fatty acids could improve stroke recovery.
Short chain fatty acids, produced by the community of bacteria that lives in the gut and is collectively known as the microbiome, are a key component of gut health.
Although it's known that the microbiome can also influence brain health and the central nervous system, its role in stroke recovery has not yet been explored, according to the study.
"There is a growing amount of evidence that inflammation can be influenced by the microbiome, and now we are learning how it affects neuroinflammation after brain injury," said study researcher Ann Stowe from University of Kentucky in the US.
During the study, the researchers added short chain fatty acids to the drinking water of mice and found that mice that drank the fatty acid-supplemented water experienced better stroke recovery.
The fatty acid-supplemented mice had reduced motor impairment as well as increased spine growth on the dendrites of nerve cells, which are crucial for memory structure. They also expressed more genes related to microglia, the brain's immune cells.
This relationship indicates that short chain fatty acids may serve as messengers in the gut-brain connection by influencing how the brain responds to injury.
The results could be promising news for stroke patients. Currently, there are only two US FDA-approved treatments for acute stroke and no effective therapeutics to promote long-term repair in the brain after stroke damage.
A short chain fatty acid dietary supplement may be a safe and practical additional therapy for stroke rehabilitation, according to researchers.
"If we can confirm that a dietary supplement could be beneficial to inflammation and recovery after stroke, it could positively impact so many lives," said Stowe.