Restoring intestinal wall may help prevent cognitive impairment after strokes: study

By The Science Advisory Board staff writers

November 21, 2022 -- Scientists at the Texas A&M University School of Medicine contend that restoring the walls of the intestine could help prevent cognitive impairment after strokes.

Stroke is a leading cause of death, dementia, and serious long-term disability. To improve stroke outcomes, the researchers set out to investigate the connection between stroke-induced gut permeability, or leakiness, and cognitive impairment.

In their study, published November 16 in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, the Texas A&M team explored whether transplant of intestinal epithelial stem cells (IESCs) from healthy donors could repair the intestinal barrier after stroke and improve stroke outcomes. Their findings indicated that IESC transplantation reduced stroke-induced mortality, decreased the volume of dead tissue and gut leakiness, and prevented stroke-induced cognitive impairment.

Evidence from several studies demonstrates that IESCs repair the gut and reduce gut permeability. After a stroke, these repair processes may be critical to preserving cognitive function, according to the authors.

The team transplanted primary IESCs from healthy donors after stroke in a preclinical model. IESCs from young donors repaired gut architecture and decreased gut permeability and consequently decreasing blood levels of proteins and other molecules that are toxic to brain cells.

IESC transplantation also prevented depressive-like behaviors and cognitive impairment in the weeks following the stroke. IESC transplantation from older donors did not improve stroke outcomes, indicating that successful transplantation depends on the age of the donor.

The study was spearheaded by Kathiresh Kumar Mani, PhD, an associate research scientist in the lab of Farida Sohrabji, PhD, department head for Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics at Texas A&M and senior author of the study.

"Ultimately, this research is expected to advance development of novel therapies that target and repair the intestinal epithelium to help mitigate stroke disability," Sohrabji said, "but the premise -- that gut stem cells might be therapeutically valuable outside of the gut -- could be considered for a much greater variety of neurological diseases."

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