Link between Alzheimer’s and gut bacteria

9 June 2016

Recent research with mice points to a link between the composition of gut flora and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers from KU Leuven and VIB have now joined a European research project that will investigate this link in greater detail and develop possible treatments based on their findings.

Scientists from the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland found a link between the composition of gut flora and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Their findings are based on mice. The researchers from Lausanne have now teamed up with scientists from KU Leuven and VIB to examine which bacteria have an impact on Alzheimer’s.

Professor Jeroen Raes, gut flora expert of the Laboratory of Molecular Bacteriology (KU Leuven / VIB) explains: “The discovery of a possible link between the composition of gut flora and the developmental mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease is of crucial importance. It opens up a whole new avenue in the battle against this incurable disease.”

The new consortium, called AD-gut, will look for new methods to map the microbial composition of our gut flora quickly and with precision. The consortium will also try to find out which intestinal cultures speed up the development of Alzheimer’s disease. This may help detect the disease at an earlier stage. Last but not least, the international team will examine whether it’s possible to develop specific probiotic cocktails that can change the gut flora in such a way as to halt the development of Alzheimer’s.

Professor Johan Hofkens and his team at the KU Leuven Department of Chemistry specialise in new detection methods. Professor Hofkens: “We have developed state-of-the-art microscopic methods that we will apply to the gut flora to map the micro-organisms quickly and accurately.” In Lausanne, too, the laboratories of Professors Aleksandra Radenovic, Dimitri Van de Ville, and Théo Lasser use special imaging techniques to get a quick and precise view of the composition of the gut flora. Professor Raes and his team will use these results to find the link with Alzheimer’s.

The research is currently limited to mice. At a later stage, the researchers want to test whether the results also apply to human beings.

More info

Tine Danschutter - Translated by Katrien Bollen