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Microbial Influence

Researchers have linked certain brain malformations to the microbiome, the New York Times reports.

A team led by the University of Pennsylvania's Mark Kahn reports in Nature that the gut microbiome appears to influence the development of cerebral cavernous malformations.

While these malformations — which can lead to stroke and seizures — are due to loss-of-function mutations in KRIT1, CCM2, and PDCD10, the researchers note that there's variation in its clinical course, suggesting that other factors are also at play.

The Times writes that the researchers' mouse model of the malformation stopped working when they moved to a new building. In the new building, only the mice that developed an abscess developed malformations. As they report in Nature, the researchers further found that germ-free mice are protected from developing the malformations and that one course of antibiotics could affect susceptibility to malformations. According to the Times, in the researchers' old building, there was enough bacteria hanging around to infect the mice that didn't develop abscesses.

Kahn now is contacting cerebral cavernous malformation patients to get samples of their microbiomes to test it for Gram-negative bacteria.

The University of California, San Diego's Mark Ginsberg, who was not involved in the study tells the Times that fecal microbiome transplants could possibly help cerebral cavernous malformations, if the findings pan out. "It should be looked at," he says.

The researchers reported a role for endothelial Toll-like receptor 4 in malformation development, as well.