How DCM Could Impact Our Gut Microbiota

The gut microbiota is composed by trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and archaea that contribute to maintaining homeostasis in our bodies. It has been recognized as one of the key players in a number of pathological conditions, including spinal cord injuries (SCI).

There are a number of studies reporting changes in microbial abundance and composition, as well as production of microbiota-derived metabolites following traumatic SCI. For example, in SCI patients, the number of butyrate-producing microbial communities has been shown to be reduced, compared with healthy controls. Furthermore, changes in gut microbiota abundance, composition, and gut microbiota-derived metabolites, known as gut dysbiosis, have been linked with impaired neurological function and neuroinflammation.

Taking into consideration that gut microbiota and its derived molecules can modulate the immune response after traumatic spinal cord injury in both human and animal models, we hypothesize that Degenerative Cervical Myelopathy (DCM) will lead to gut dysbiosis, thus altering the production of microbiome-derived molecules.

In our recent research, we use a clinically relevant mouse model to provide an in-depth characterization of the temporal gut dysbiosis taking place during DCM progression in both females and males using 16S rRNA sequencing of fecal samples. We showed that DCM caused gut dysbiosis in both sexes compared with the control group. However, dysbiosis was more pronounced in males than in females. Changes in gut microbiota composition were also associated with changes in microbiota-derived metabolites, such as butyrate and propionate. We also studied the immune cell composition in some gut-associated lymphoid tissues. We found alterations in T-cell populations and monocytes in females and males, respectively.

To our knowledge, this is the first study to focus on this area of DCM research. It provides the basis for more research in this area aiming to address whether the composition and role of gut microbiota and gut-derived metabolites during DCM can be used for the development of novel therapeutic approaches to attenuate both spinal cord compression and development of long-term motor deficits in DCM patients. Furthermore, a higher dysbiosis in males can help to explain the higher incidence of DCM in men than women.

About the Authors

dr carlos farkas

Dr Carlos Farkas Pool is a Bioinformatician and Assistant Professor at the Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción in Chile, with a background in Biological Sciences. He holds a BSc in Bioengineering and a PhD in Biological Sciences, specializing in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Universidad de Concepción, Chile. His expertise encompasses leukemia research, single-cell genomics, and environmental metagenomics. He engages in significant bioinformatic analyses and collaborates at both national and international levels. Additionally, he is committed to teaching chemistry and data science to students and actively participates in community outreach projects, such as the Foldscope Project and scientific cafés, to disseminate science.

dr pia vidal

Dr Vidal holds a Bachelor’s degree in Bioengineering with specialization in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of Concepción, Chile. She received her PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Hasselt, Belgium. She did postdoctoral trainings at BIOMED Research institute, Belgium, Toronto Western Hospital, Canada, and Fundación Ciencia & Vida, Chile. She currently works as an assistant professor at Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción (UCSC) in Chile, and principal investigator at the Neuroimmunology and Regeneration of the Central Nervous System Unit. Her research focuses on studying the interaction between the immune response, the gut microbiota and the central nervous system under pathological conditions, with special emphasis on how their interaction might play a role in the recovery of motor/neurological functions.