Different diet influences MS disease progression

08 Nov 2018 | Back to News, Publications and Annual Reports

Researchers at BPRC studying differences among marmosets fed different diets have shown that dietary changes affect MS-like symptoms in common marmosets.

Common marmosets are similar in many ways to humans, one being that they have a comparable immune system. This makes them a suitable animal model in the search for therapies for serious immunological diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS).

Milder MS-like symptoms after dietary modification

The central question of this study was: can eating differently alter the progression of MS? To answer it, researchers compared the effects on MS progression of an original marmoset diet versus a new diet. After being placed on the new diet, marmosets were less susceptible to the MS-like condition than before.

Fewer and milder

Common marmosets are usually born as twins. This enabled the researchers to put one twin on the original diet and the other on the new diet, using eight sets of twins in all. To trigger the MS symptoms, a protein called MOG was administered to the monkeys. Whereas three-quarters of those placed on the new diet exhibited disease symptoms, all of those on the original diet did. In addition, the symptoms in the new diet group were milder than in the original diet group.

Spot the difference

The next step was to look for differences between marmosets fed the two different diets. The researchers found that the immune systems of those on the new diet were less activated by the MOG protein compared to monkeys on the original diet. Also, after administration of MOG, marmosets on the new diet had different bacteria in their intestines than those on the original diet. Before, there was no difference. This suggests close interactions between diet, gut flora and immune function.

More research into diet-disease correlation needed

These findings indicate that dietary changes can impact specific parts of the body and possibly influence disease processes. More research is needed however to understand how all these elements interact. Common marmosets may help to advance that understanding.

To learn more, read the article in The Journal of Immunology.