New Collaborative MS Research Award Tests a Link Between Gut Bacteria and MS Progression

Lead Investigator: Sergio Baranzini, Ph.D.
University of California at San Francisco
Title: “The MS Microbiome Consortium: An academic multi-disciplinary collaborative effort to elucidate the role of the gut microbiota in MS”.
Summary: A comprehensive analysis of gut bacteria in people with MS to determine fac- tors that may drive progression and develop probiotic strategies for stopping progression.
Background: MS involves immune-system attacks against the brain and spinal cord. The gut, including the small and large intestine, is the largest immune organ in mammals. Each of us has millions of “commensal” bacteria living within our guts. Most of these bacteria are harmless as long as they remain in the inner wall of the intestine. They play a critical role in our normal phys- iology, and accumulating research suggests that they are critical in the establishment and maintenance of immune balance by the molecules they release.
The Study: The MS Microbiome Consortium was created in 2013 by the investigators participating in this proposal. Its members have world-class expertise in genomics (Dr. Sergio Baranzini), clinical care and research (Drs. Bruce Cree, UCSF, and Ilana Katz-Sand, Mount Sinai School of Medicine), microbiology (Dr. Sarkis Mazmanian, California Institute of Technology), and neuroscience (Dr. Patrizia Casaccia, Mount Sinai School of Medicine). Dr. Rob Knight (University of California San Diego) new to the field of MS research, pioneered the devel- opment of advanced computational methods for identifying microbial species. The consor- tium is using this award to start a comprehensive microbiome analysis. They are comparing the gut bacteria of people with relapsing MS, people with primary progressive MS, and healthy controls. They believe that significant differences in gut bacteria exist among these groups that may drive MS progression.
What’s Next? These findings will help the Consortium toward its goal of developing biomarkers of MS progression, as well as novel therapeutic approaches based on personalized probiotics. New Research Spring 2015 page 17