For the past few days I’ve been reading and hearing about some exciting news: the microbiome may affect neurologic disease like ALS. This news has popped up on my local public radio station, my Twitter feed, the weekly AVMA news, and as of this morning, the EARA newsletter. Somebody, I’m thinking, has a great public relations department!
And so when I saw it again on the EARA newsletter, I took the bait and clicked. Turns out the news is from the Weizmann Institute in Jerusalem. One of the co-authors is Alon Harmelin, a de facto member of ECLAM since 2003 and formerly the chair of the Training Committee. Alon currently supervises two residents, with a third scheduled to sit the examinations this year.
The research, which was published in Nature on 22 July, describes extensive experiments using mice transgenic for the human SOD1 (G93A) mutation on a C57BL/6J background. The mice have a shortened lifespan and develop hindlimb paralysis, and are a recognised model for ALS. The authors show that they also have a unique microbiome compared to wild-type littermates. After a lengthy series of experiments, they identified Akkermansia muciniphila as a source of nicotinamide, which improved motor signs in the mice on Rotarod and grip-strength testing as well as neurologic exam. In a small cohort of human ALS patients, a similar correlation with nicotinamide levels and possibly even the same bacterial species was identified.
Congratulations to Prof Harmelin and his staff on helping to bring this significant research to fruition! We hope it results someday in improved treatments for people with Lou Gehrig’s disease.