A study carried out in an animal model of multiple sclerosis (MS) has shown that chronic stress and inflammation in the brain can cause multiple organ problems including severe gut failure through a newly identified nerve pathway.
The discovery of this new nerve pathway is described in a research study published in the journal eLife and adds to a growing body of evidence that the brain and the digestive tract or gut are connected in MS.
Using mice with an MS-like disease called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, researchers found that mice with autoreactive CD4+ T-cells as a result of their MS-like disease developed symptoms such as gastrointestinal failure, or even death when exposed to stressful conditions.
Detailed analysis of the animals’ brains showed autoreactive CD4+ T-cells accumulated in specific sites in the centre of the brain around blood vessels, as happens in human MS. This caused inflammation around those vessels and activation of the nerve pathway. In turn this led to gut problems, bleeding and organ failure.
“These results demonstrate a direct link between brain micro-inflammation and fatal gastrointestinal diseases via the establishment of a new neural pathway under stress,” Professor Masaaki Murakami, the study’s senior author, said. The study can be found at https://elifesciences.org/articles/25517.