Spinal cord injury (SCI) disrupts the autonomic nervous system (ANS), impairing the ability of the ANS to coordinate organ function throughout the body. Emerging data indicate that systemic pathology resulting from ANS dysfunction contributes to intraspinal pathology and neurological impairment. For example, the post-injury onset of neurogenic bowel and immune suppression can cause gut dysbiosis ? a pathological state where beneficial symbiotic bacteria (probionts) in the GI tract become outnumbered by aggressive bacteria (pathobionts). Recent data from our lab show that SCI triggers gut dysbiosis, which impairs functional recovery and exacerbates lesion pathology. Since different types of gut bacteria exert unique effects on the host and these effects can vary by sex, it is important to understand how gut ecology changes as a function of time, spinal injury level and injury severity in both males and females. Accordingly, experiments in Aim 1 will use state-of-the-art PhyloChip technology to profile post-SCI changes in gut microbial communities in male and female mice as a function of injury severity, time post-injury and injury level. The primary goal is to identify post-injury changes in gut microbe populations that could be manipulated for therapeutic gain. Gut microbe manipulation is clinically feasible and can profoundly affect mammalian physiology. Indeed, we found that functional recovery is improved and lesion pathology reduced in mice treated post-SCI with a medical-grade probiotic (VSL#3).
Aim 2 will explore the mechanisms underlying VSL#3-mediated neuroprotection. SCI can affect the gut microbiome but the altered microbiota can in turn affect the immune system and spinal cord.
Aim 3 will examine how SCI-induced gut dysbiosis influences macrophage phenotype and function. Emerging data indicate that gut microbes can cause transcriptional and epigenetic changes in macrophage precursors in bone marrow. Such changes can render mature macrophages more or less responsive to subsequent inflammatory stimuli, including those found in the injured spinal cord. Using germ-free mice (devoid of any commensal microbe) and fecal transplantation to selectively recolonize mice with control or SCI microbiota, we will test whether gut dysbiosis adversely affects macrophage function. Rather than ?treat the spinal cord?, this proposal seeks new ways to treat SCI as a systemic disorder caused by breakdown of the spinal cord-gut-immune axis.

Public Health Relevance

Spinal cord injury (SCI) disrupts the autonomic nervous system (ANS), impairing the ability of the ANS to coordinate organ function throughout the body. Emerging data indicate that systemic pathology resulting from ANS dysfunction, contributes to intraspinal pathology and neurological impairment. How or why this happens is not known. New data, in humans and rodent models, show that the composition of bacteria in the gut (i.e., the microbiota) is disrupted after SCI. In rodents, we have found that gut dysbiosis impairs functional recovery and exacerbates intraspinal inflammation and lesion pathology. Importantly, post-injury oral delivery of probiotics containing ?good? bacteria, improves immune function and promotes functional recovery. Experiments in this proposal will yield a comprehensive database of changes gut microbes across a range of clinically-relevant variables that affect outcome after SCI (e.g., sex, injury level, injury severity). These data can be used as a ?biomarker? panel to help predict the onset or severity of common post-injury comorbidities including infection, anemia, metabolic syndrome and perhaps, secondary neurological deterioration. These same microbes could also be ?druggable? targets that could be manipulated via diet. For example, personalized nutraceuticals (e.g., pre- or probiotics) could be developed to treat the above co-morbidities and improve quality of life after SCI. Data in other experiments will explore how dysbiosis affects immune functions, revealing novel cellular and molecular targets that again could be ?druggable? leading to improved health and quality of life, despite persistent paralysis. Rather than ?treat the spinal cord?, this proposal seeks innovative ways to treat SCI as a systemic disorder. !

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Type
Research Project (R01)
Project #
1R01NS099532-01A1
Application #
9380128
Study Section
Clinical Neuroplasticity and Neurotransmitters Study Section (CNNT)
Program Officer
Jakeman, Lyn B
Project Start
2017-07-15
Project End
2022-06-30
Budget Start
2017-07-15
Budget End
2018-06-30
Support Year
1
Fiscal Year
2017
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Name
Ohio State University
Department
Neurosciences
Type
Schools of Medicine
DUNS #
832127323
City
Columbus
State
OH
Country
United States
Zip Code
43210
Kigerl, Kristina A; Mostacada, Klauss; Popovich, Phillip G (2017) Gut Microbiota Are Disease-Modifying Factors After Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury. Neurotherapeutics :