Science Update

Researchers discover changes in intestinal barrier function in patients with multiple sclerosis

Researchers in Sweden at Lund University published new research on the role of the intestinal barrier in the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis (MS). This study investigated whether intestinal function is also attacked in MS as the researchers demonstrated that inflammation and changes in the intestinal barrier function occur early on in the course of the disease.

Scientists at Lund University have previously shown that probiotics could provide a certain amount of protection against MS. Therefore they questioned whether the intestinal barrier was affected which led to their examination of inflammatory cells and processes in the intestine. As a result they saw structural changes in the gastrointestinal mucosa of the small intestine and an increase in inflammatory T-cells. In addition they saw a reduction in regulatory T-cells (immunosuppressive cells). These changes are often linked to inflammatory bowel diseases.

In most cases we don't know what triggers autoimmune diseases but we know that pathogenic cells frequent and disrupt the intestines. A leaky gut enables harmful bacteria and toxic substances in the body to enter the intestine which creates even more inflammation. Our findings provide support for the idea that a damaged intestinal barrier can prevent the body ending an autoimmune reaction in the normal manner leading to a chronic disease such as MS said Dr. Shahram Lavasani one of the studies authors.

Dr. Lavasani and his colleagues believe that future drugs to treat MS should not only focus on the central nervous system but also on repairing and restoring the intestinal barrier. They hope for the development of a better treatment that looks at the intestinal barrier as a new therapeutic target.

This is a perfect example of the big disconnect between medical research which is often outstanding and the practice of traditional medicine which often leaves quite a bit to be desired when it comes to the management  of chronic disorders.

If we know what causes the immune system to attack itself and we know some of the triggers for what causes a malfunction in the immune system which we do we can successfully treat these conditions.

Autoimmunity can occur several different ways. First there can be a mistaken identity and the body attacks itself. This can occur with a virus where there is tissue destruction and it appears foreign to the body. This can also happen with heavy metal toxicities such as mercury. The second way is called molecular mimicry. This occurs when the body makes an antibody (a protein in the body that attacks objects in the body that appear to be foreign) to a specific antigen. These antigens can resemble certain proteins in the body and the antibodies attack our bodies own tissues. Third is the development of the T cells (the immune system). This can be affected by genetics stress and environmental triggers. Environmental triggers are what integrative doctors often work with in functional medicine. What appears to happen with most autoimmune conditions is there are multiple triggers chronically stimulating the immune system over a long period of time in multiple ways. Our immune system gets into an overloaded overwhelmed state and loses its ability to function.

There are many autoimmune diseases within all specialties and all of these are looked at differently.  However they all have the same common triggers as demonstrated in this study. Therefore it seems appropriate that we can take a similar approach in treating all autoimmune conditions.


Source: Intestinal Barrier Dysfunction Develops at the Onset of Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis and Can Be Induced by Adoptive Transfer of Auto-Reactive T Cells. Mehrnaz Nouri Anders Bredberg Bjrn Westrm Shahram Lavasani. Published: September 03 2014. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106335