In recent years, scientists have learned that changes in gut bacteria can influence overall health. In fact, evidence suggests that the gut microbiome can play a role in one’s susceptibility to diseases, including those of the brain. While studying probiotic bacterial strains in the laboratory, Dr. Alex Parker discovered that one specific strain, HA-114, protected motor neurons from degeneration in worm models of ALS, and subsequently confirmed this effect in mice.
It was hypothesized that this specific bacterial strain was able to protect motor neurons by working to correct problems in a cellular process that metabolizes fatty acids, called mitochondrial β-oxidation.
With this grant, Dr. Parker, will further investigate the specific mechanisms by which the HA-114 bacterial strain leads to neuroprotection in an ALS mouse model. Further, in collaboration with metabolomics expert Dr. Mattieu Ruiz, the team will examine a large-scale profile of all the metabolic changes that occur when HA-114 is fed to mice.
If the team can identify key metabolites and pathways influenced by the HA-114 probiotic strain that are responsible for the protective effect, new therapeutic targets will be identified that could lead to intriguing treatment possibilities in the future.