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2014-12-01

Bacterial Influence on the BBB

We now have enough evidence to know that the health of the gut, and more specifically its microbiome, has significant effects on the brain and cognition. Here is a new study that looks at how the intestinal microbiome can protect the brain from toxic substances.

The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a physical barrier that protects the brain from harmful substances in the blood. Normally, this is "tight" and does it's job well, making sure substances that shouldn't enter the brain are kept out. This newly published mouse study, now provides evidence that our native microbes contribute to the mechanism that closes the BBB prior to birth, and also supports earlier observations that changes in the intestinal microbiome can impact brain development and function.

"We showed that the presence of the maternal gut microbiota during late pregnancy blocked the passage of labelled antibodies from the circulation into the brain parenchyma of the growing foetus," explained first lead author.

"In contrast, in age-matched foetuses from germ-free mothers, these labelled antibodies easily crossed the blood-brain barrier and was detected within the brain parenchyma." The findings also showed that the increased 'leakiness' of the BBB, observed in these germ-free mice from
early life, was maintained into adulthood. Interestingly, this 'leakiness' was reversed if these sterile mice were exposed to faecal transplantation with normal gut microbes.


These results provide evidence that changes in our indigenous microbiome could have far-reaching consequences for the BBB function throughout life.

"These findings further underscore the importance of the maternal microbes during early life and that our bacteria are an integrated component of our body physiology,” added the senior researcher.

"Given that the microbiome composition and diversity change over time, it is tempting to speculate that the blood-brain barrier integrity also may fluctuate depending on the microbiome,” he said.

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Source: The gut microbiota influences blood-brain barrier permeability in mice

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