In a new study from Cleveland Clinic, researchers found for the first time that the gut microbiome impacts stroke severity and functional impairment following stroke.
The results lay the groundwork for potential new interventions to help treat or prevent stroke.
The findings build on more than a decade of research by the team related to the gut microbiome’s role in heart health and disease.
This includes the adverse effects of TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide) – a byproduct produced when gut bacteria digest certain nutrients abundant in red meat and other animal products.
They found that dietary choline and TMAO produced greater stroke size and severity, and poorer outcomes.
Remarkably, simply transplanting gut microbes capable of making TMAO was enough to cause a profound change in stroke severity.
Previously, the team discovered that elevated TMAO levels can lead to the development of heart disease.
In clinical studies involving thousands of patients, they have shown that blood levels of TMAO predict future risk of heart attack, stroke and death -findings that have been replicated around the world.
Earlier studies were the first to show a link between TMAO and enhanced risk for blood clotting.
This new study expands on these findings, and for the first time provides proof that gut microbes in general – and through TMAO specifically – can directly impact stroke severity or post-stroke functional impairment.
In the study, the researchers compared brain damage in preclinical stroke models between those with elevated or reduced TMAO levels.
Over time, those with higher levels of TMAO had more extensive brain damage and a greater degree of motor and cognitive functional deficits following stroke.
The researchers also found that dietary changes that alter TMAO levels, such as eating less red meat and eggs, impacted stroke severity.
They found that a gut microbe enzyme critical to TMAO production called CutC drove heightened stroke severity and worsened outcomes.
According to the team, targeting this gut microbe enzyme may be a promising approach to prevent stroke.
If you care about stroke, please read studies about most people with type 2 diabetes have high risk of a fatal heart attack or stroke and findings of avoiding these foods can lower your heart disease, stroke risk.
The study is published in Cell Host & Microbe. One author of the study is Weifei Zhu, Ph.D.