More than 100 trillion naturally occurring bacteria live in the human digestive tract, and scientists have only just begun to explore how those bacteria may influence our health and well-being. Two recent news stories look at how gut microbes may play a role in both Alzheimer’s disease and type 1 diabetes.
Illuminating the Path to Alzheimer’s
Scientists in Sweden have determined that differences in microbial makeup may play a role in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease—and that certain types of bacteria trigger the onset of the illness by contributing to the buildup of plaques in the brain. They reached their conclusion by analyzing both healthy and diseased mice.
According to study researcher Frida Fåk Hållenius, “Our study is unique as it shows a direct causal link between gut bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease. It was striking that the mice which completely lacked bacteria developed much less plaque in the brain.” Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that affects more than 5 million Americans.
Type 1 Diabetes and the Gut Microbiome
Thanks to a recent grant awarded by the American Diabetes Association, Aleksandar Kostic and a team from the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, Massachusetts will continue exploring how our gut microbes influence the body’s immune response—including why certain bacteria trigger an abnormal response, which can lead to inflammatory conditions such as type 1 diabetes. It is possible that by restoring balance to the gut microbiome we may be able to and help prevent type 1 diabetes and similar conditions.