Predicting brain disease from the gut? The latest research: may be able to sound the alarm years in advance!

▎WuXi AppTec Content Team Editor 

Brain and gut, two far-flung organs, are now also being found to have numerous connections. A new study from the University of Aberdeen suggests that changes in the gut are likely to indicate some neurological conditions, such as some proteins associated with motor neuron disease (MND), which can appear years before patients develop any symptoms appear in the gut.

MND is better known by its name: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). These patients have mild early symptoms and are easily confused with other diseases, thereby delaying treatment.

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Some studies have found that a number of special proteins, pTDP-43, are abnormally present in the brains of ALS patients. Excessive accumulation of this protein can cause nerve cells to die, leading to movement, thinking Obstacles arise. After the symptoms appear, the treatment of ALS will become more difficult. How to predict the occurrence of ALS earlier is also an important way to preempt the timing of treatment.

A study published in the Journal of Pathology: Clinical Research has learned from a long-term analysis of ALS patients that people with ALS don’t just develop symptoms in their brains, but also in their guts. There is a high probability of being affected, such as abnormal bowel habits, weight loss, etc. Could changes in other parts provide some indication?

The study analyzed multiple tissue samples from dozens of ALS patients, some from before diagnosis and some from after diagnosis. The researchers observed that a very large number of organs actually sound the alarm before ALS is diagnosed. For example, one patient had pTDP-43 aggregates in gallbladder tissue 1 year before diagnosis, and most surprisingly, one patient also had pTDP-43 aggregates in lymph node samples 14 years before ALS diagnosis.

In addition to these organs, many patients showed abnormal pTDP-43 in the gut before diagnosis, especially the colon samples from many patients showed abnormal aggregates , some are single dense aggregate patterns, others are scattered punctate distributions.

“It may be too late to intervene by the time symptoms appear,” says study co-author Dr. Jenna Gregory. If prevention can be done years, or even a decade earlier, ALS could The life expectancy of patients will also be greatly improved.

Researchers believe that with a small bowel biopsy or stool sample, it may be possible to monitor ALS when symptoms are not clear, which could kick in before the brain is affected.


[1] Samuel B Pattle et al, pTDP ‐43 aggregates accumulate in non‐central nervous system tissues prior to symptom onset in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a case series linking archival surgical biopsies with clinical phenotypic data, The Journal of Pathology: Clinical Research (2022). DOI: 10.1002/cjp2.297

[2] Gut could sound early warning alarm for motor neuron disease. Retrieved October 19, 2022 from https: alarm-motor-neuron.html