ALS, Icebuckets and the Gut Biome

Several years ago, my Dad had a co-worker die of ALS:  he was only 42 or so.  My Dad tried to talk him into trying helminths.  After all, what did he have to lose?  And there is some speculation there that ALS may have an autoimmune component.  But the man’s doctor objected:  after all, helminths might kill him.  Wait…WHAT?!  (You can’t make this stuff up.)

The poor man, father of two little girls, was dead in less than 2 years.

Every time I read articles about ALS, I think of my Dad’s friend.  I never met him personally, but my Dad was fond of him…and how can anyone not be affected by the tragic death of someone so young?

My big brother also has a very dear friend who developed ALS a couple of years ago.  I first met her 30 or more years ago.  I think about her every day and my heart literally aches every time.  She is so unbelievably sick now – it’s unbearable.  Back in January, I spotted an article[i] out of the University of Illinois, “Rebalancing gut microbiome lengthens survival in mouse model of ALS.”  Believe it or not, the research was actually paid for by the famous Ice Bucket Challenge.

“Sun and her colleagues studied transgenic mice that were engineered to carry human genes known to contribute to certain forms of ALS. The mice were found to have an abnormal microbiome, along with damaged junctions between the cells of the intestinal lining. Poorly functioning junctions can cause the tissue to become leaky, and have been found to be associated with the onset of ALS in humans.

When the researchers fed the ALS-prone mice butyrate in their water, starting when the mice were 35 to 42 days old, the mice showed a restored gut microbiome profile and improved gut integrity. Butyrate-treated mice also showed improved neuromuscular function and delayed onset of ALS symptoms. Treated mice showed symptoms at 150 days old compared to control mice at about 110 days. Treated mice also lived an average 38 days longer than mice not given butyrate.”

Butyrate is a natural byproduct of normal intestinal bacteria.  Feeding it to the mice restored the equilibrium to the intestinal bacteria and improved lesions in the gut wall.

By the way, I had already read previously that gut bacteria play a role in ALS (as well as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, which you already know from previous posts).  Research out of the University of Louisville[ii] discovered that the misfolding of proteins in the brain that characterize these diseases can be initiated by proteins produced by gut bacteria.  One of the researchers concluded, “These new studies in two different animals show that proteins made by bacteria harbored in the gut may be an initiating factor in the disease process of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and ALS.”

I know my brother sent the information on to his friend.  She can read, but she cannot talk – she has to use some kind of special computer. He visits her regularly – I hope he can convince her. My Dad will always regret that Rob could not be convinced.  Of course, I have absolutely no idea if working on her gut biome at this stage can help but…it can’t hurt either, can it?   And as I said a few weeks back, talking about my Grandmother and Alzheimer’s, let’s all “not go gentle into that good night…”




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