ROSEMONT, Ill., Sept. 20, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The gastrointestinal microbiome is currently a hot topic of research concerning serious diseases affecting large portions of the world’s population.  It has been implicated in a variety of conditions such as asthma, obesity, and now osteoarthritis (OA).  Recent work presented at the Orthopaedic Research Society 2017 Annual Meeting by Eric Schott, Robert Mooney, Steve Gill, Michael Zuscik and colleagues at the Center for Musculoskeletal Research at the University of Rochester Medical Center have shown that prebiotic manipulation of the gut microbiome may lead to decelerated progression of OA. The work utilized a mouse model of high fat diet-induced obesity along with an injury to the medial meniscus to initiate degeneration in the knee.  Specifically, mice that were fed a high fat diet along with the prebiotic supplement, oligofructose, demonstrated reduced systemic inflammation and decelerated cartilage degeneration after meniscal injury.

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Prebiotic supplements are intended to nourish and support particular bacterial strains present in the gut. This is in contrast to probiotic supplements, often found and discussed in yogurt, which attempt to confer specific bacterial cultures directly to the gut.  In the experiment reported by Schott et al, it is believed that an increased abundance of microbes from the genus Bifidobacterium, resulting from prebiotic supplementation, may be responsible for the reduction in systemic inflammation and deceleration of OA symptoms.

A link between altered gut microbiome and systemic inflammation in obesity has previously been established; however, the mechanisms by which the gut microbiome affect joint health are still largely unknown.  Schott speculates that either the increased numbers of Bifidobacteria are crowding out other inflammation-inducing strains, or that these Bifidobacteria are producing a metabolic byproduct(s) that has positive effects on the host, including supporting healthy joints. Answers to these questions may provide the first evidence connecting the gut microbiome to joint health.

Future work in the Zuscik lab will further investigate the gut microbiome in OA, without obesity as a comorbid factor.  They hope to determine if OA patients have an altered gut microbiome compared to healthy individuals.  If the microbiome is altered in OA, perhaps correction of the abnormalities will protect against or even reverse OA symptoms.  Additional clarification of the gut-joint connection may lead to novel therapeutic strategies involving the manipulation of the intestinal microbial community to treat or prevent OA.  Results from this work may help to address a clinical problem of enormous scope for which no effective disease-modifying therapy has been established. 

Eric Schott is a member of the Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS).  ORS strives to advance musculoskeletal research worldwide.


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SOURCE Orthopaedic Research Society