As our understanding of the importance of the gut-brain axis continues to grow, new research has revealed that immune cells found in the intestine can travel from the gut to the central nervous system to mitigate the effects of a multiple sclerosis attack.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a the most common chronic neurological disease affecting young Australians. Of every four Australians diagnosed with this incurable disease, three are female. Globally, over two million people live with MS.

A diagnosis of MS means an unpredictable and varied symptomatology, where the cells of the persons own immune system mistakenly attacks the protective myelin sheathing of the nervous system.

Myelin serves to protect and insulate the nerves and allows for fast and effective communication between the brain and body, via the thousands of nerve fibres carrying electrical nerve impulses.

The break down of the myelin, through a process called demyelination results in inefficient signalling, and compromised communication between the brain and body, which can result in different symptoms such as a loss of motor function, loss of sensations, pain and visual changes. MS can also attack the brain itself disturbing memory function and cognitive abilities.

To date, there has been no cure for MS, rather methods to slow down the progression. However, a specific type of cell originating from the gut may be the gamechanger.

Certain cells of the immune system (B cells, also known as plasma cells) responsible for producing the antibody immunoglobulin A (IgA) have been shown to reduce inflammation in the brain of MS patients during a flare-up. Data shows that IgA mobilised from the gut play a role in suppressing neuroinflammation.

Researchers increased the number of IgA-producing plasma cells that migrated from the gut of mice to the animals’ brains, and discovered that this could completely eradicate inflammation in the brain. It has been proposed that increasing the number IgA producing plasma cells in the gut of people with MS could potentially increase the number that migrate to the patients’ brains.

For more information visit the University of California San Francisco.