Gut bacteria molecule shows promise for MS symptoms and myelin repair

New research presented by Larissa Jank, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at Johns Hopkins University, during the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) Forum 2024, suggests that supplements of indole 3-lactate (ILA), a molecule produced by gut bacteria, could hold promise in reducing disease severity and promoting myelin repair in mouse models of multiple sclerosis (MS).

Jank’s presentation, titled “Restoring the Multiple Sclerosis Associated Imbalance of Gut Indole Metabolites Promotes Remyelination and Suppresses Neuroinflammation,” highlighted the potential of ILA as a safe remyelination agent. She proposed the idea of personalised medicine approaches where ILA supplementation could be targeted to MS patients with low ILA levels.

The study revealed that ILA supplementation in mouse models resulted in decreased levels of another gut microbiome metabolite called indole 3-acetate (IAA). Previous research has indicated that the ratio of IAA to ILA is elevated in MS patients. Further experiments demonstrated that IAA inhibited remyelination in mice and hindered the maturation of myelin-producing oligodendrocytes in cell models.

Jank emphasised that besides its direct effects on immune and brain cells, ILA supplementation also led to a reduction in circulating levels of IAA, a metabolite known to impede remyelination. Based on these findings, Jank suggested that ILA supplements might be beneficial for individuals with MS, particularly those with low ILA levels. However, she cautioned that more research is necessary to translate these findings into clinical practice.