Reducing the Severity of Strokes From the Inside Out

By CDC [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By CDC [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Stroke is the second most common cause of death and disability in the world. If you are going to write sci-fi about a world where people are immortal, you end up doing a lot of crappy research to find out how it would all work.

That’s especially true now that there is evidence that changing the microbes in your gut could alter the damage a stroke does to you.

Researchers have known for some time that two immune system cells play a role in the severity of strokes. Regulatory T cells help reduce inflammation and can clear away dead cells following a stroke. Gamma delta T cells on the other hand, create harmful inflammation. These two are found in abundance in the intestines, could changing the balance in mice change the level of damage done by strokes?

To find out, scientists bred colonies of mice with two different gut floras, one normal and one antibiotic resistant. After administering antibiotics, they found that the mice with normal gut floras, the ones altered by the antibiotics, had less brain damage following a stroke, 60 percent less.

To see if it was due to the altered gut flora, they transplanted the intestinal contents (talk about a crappy job) from the antibiotic susceptible mice into new mice and found they also had protection against stroke, without having been given the antibiotics themselves.

What does it mean for humans? For one thing, mice have very different gut flora, but we may find value in treating people prone to strokes with some combination of antibiotics, probiotics, or special diets.

Will we ever get to where we fine tune our gut flora everyday? It’s hard to imagine, but as we learn more it might become a reality.

A Hidden Factor in Stroke Severity: The Microbes in Your Gut

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