The key to stopping dementia could lie in the gut rather than the brain, new research suggests. Decades of studies from around the world costing billions of pounds have so far failed to uncover a way of tackling the memory-robbing disease. But the gut “represents an alternative target that may be easier to influence with drugs or diet changes”, experts have said.
A series of experiments linking the gut to the development of Alzheimer's were presented at the Alzheimer's Research UK 2022 Conference in Brighton on March 1, The Daily Mail reported.
One revealed how the microbiomes — the community of bacteria in the gut — of patients with the condition can differ massively from those without the disorder.
Another found rodents given fecal transplants directly from Alzheimer's patients perform worse on memory tests. A third study saw brain stem cells treated with blood from patients with the disorder were less able to grow new nerve cells.
In theory, the patients' gut bacteria influence the levels of inflammation in the body which then impacts the brain via the blood supply. Inflammation is considered a key contributor to the development of Alzheimer's. The disease is the most common type of dementia, and one of the leading causes of death in the UK.
Charities estimate roughly 900,000 people in Britain and 5million in the US are living with the disorder, with that number growing every year as we live longer.
Dr. Edina Silajdžić, a neuroscientist from King's College London, involved in the analysis of samples from Alzheimer's patients, said: “Most people are surprised that their gut bacteria could have any bearing on the health of their brain. But the evidence is mounting — and we are building an understanding of how this comes about.”
“This leads us to believe inflammation associated with gut bacteria can affect the brain via the blood,” Silajdžić noted.