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Researching neutrophils

Intestinal microflora and stroke

  • von Ulrike Bohnsack
  • 24.08.2020

Our intestinal microflora may affect brain functions. The disruption to these tiny bugs can change immune responses and impact brain diseases like stroke. Dr. Vikramjeet Singh, the neuroscientist at the UDE, is investigating how the interaction of intestinal microbes and immune cells influences brain injury after stroke. Specifically, he is interested in understanding the cross-talk between intestinal microbes and local neutrophils. Neutrophils are responsible for the initial defense against pathogens but can also strongly influence sterile tissue injury. The German Research Foundation DFG has funded Singh's study with 430,000 euros over the next three years.

The majority of strokes are ischemic. This means that the brain artery is blocked and the brain is not sufficiently supplied with blood containing nutrients and oxygen which eventually leads to the death of brain cells. Recently, it has been shown that intestinal microbes can regulate cellular functions and impact the course of cerebrovascular diseases. Since 2018, Dr. Vikramjeet Singh has been studying these mechanisms at the Centre for Medical Biotechnology (ZMB) and the Institute for Experimental Immunology and Imaging at the UDE and Essen University Hospital.

Destructive defense cells

Before he joined the UDE, Singh discovered that a stroke can trigger an imbalance in the intestinal immune compartments and resident microflora. The latter in turn has considerable consequences for the injured brain tissue.

In healthy people, the intestinal microflora consists of about 1,000 different types of bacteria that can potentially regulate the immune system. “The massive decrease in microflora diversity after stroke might influence the functions of neutrophils. Neutrophils are the most common white blood cells of the innate immune system and are the first to reach the injured brain," explains Dr. Singh.

It is not yet fully understood which molecular signals activate neutrophils and possibly many of these signals are derived from intestinal microbes. Moreover, there is a significant lack of therapies to prevent the over-activation of neutrophils and reduce brain inflammation after stroke. This is exactly what Dr. Singh and his research group will be focused on at the UDE.

Further information:
Dr. Vikramjeet Singh, Neuroscience, T. +49 201/18 3-6643, vikramjeet.singh@uni-due.de

Editor: Ulrike Bohnsack, T. +49 203/37 9-2429, ulrike.bohnsack@uni-due.de

 

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