Dietary interventions may delay MS onset and progression

Summary: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). While the causes of MS are not well understood, it is well established that the disease is driven by an activated immune system involving specialized cells (T cells) that target and attack healthy tissues. Diet, obesity, and related comorbidities are risk factors for MS as they can contribute to the activation of immune cells. Scientific evidence shows that intake of methionine, an essential amino acid found in high levels in meat-based diets, is associated with T cell activation. In this collaborative study led by the research teams of Dr. Russell Jones (Van Andel Research Institute, USA) and Dr. Catherine Larochelle (Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal), they examine the impact of dietary methionine on MS onset and progression.

Study: T cells use available nutrients (e.g. methionine) from the diet to replicate and perform specialized functions. In the present study, researchers used cellular and animal models of MS to better understand the effect of restricting methionine intake on T cell function and inflammatory response.

Key Results: Researchers found that methionine fuels the immune response by reprogramming T cells, or in other words allowing T cells to replicate and differentiate so they can respond better and more quickly. These reprogrammed T cells can then cause inflammation by releasing harmful inflammatory molecules called cytokines. When dietary consumption of methionine was restricted in a mouse model of MS, there was a slower disease onset and progression. This was because limiting the availability of methionine affected the ability of T cells to replicate, which in turn decreased the levels of T cells entering the brain and causing inflammation.

Impact: The results of this study provide a novel link between methionine intake and neuroinflammation. Targeting methionine intake in order to manipulate T cell activity and reduce inflammation in MS represents an entirely novel therapeutic approach. This type of dietary intervention could represent a cost-effective and low risk measure to prevent and control MS. However, further studies in a clinical setting will be necessary to develop dietary guidelines.

The research study is published in the journal Cell Metabolismlink.

For more information on Dr. Catherine Larochelle’s work, click here.