Stroke severity is caused by a complex convergence of many factors. Because the varying severity of strokes means the difference between death, disability, and a speedy recovery, scientists are obviously very interested in examining every possible detail that could determine the severity of a stroke. A recent study published in Nature Medicine suggests that one important factor may come from an unexpected origin: the bacteria living in the human gut.
In recent years, the intestinal microbiome has been identified as a possible factor in a number of other neurological disorders--from depression to anxiety to alzheimer's and more. The implication, though seemingly far-fetched, has held true throughout numerous studies: a healthy, well-balanced microbiome in the stomach can lead to healthier outcomes for the rest of the mind and body.
Fortunately, it is possible to influence the intestinal microbiome. Nobody is “stuck” with the microbiome given to them by their childhood diets and antibiotic use: we can all cultivate healthier microbiomes through special diets and, in some cases, through supplements.
That is exactly what scientists in the aforementioned study aimed to achieve. By altering the composition of the microbiomes of lab mice, they hoped to increase the amount of beneficial regulatory T cells while decreasing the amount of gamma delta T cells. Not only did they achieve this goal, but when strokes were later induced in the lab mice, those who had received an increase in regulatory T cells experienced, in general, much better outcomes than those mice which had not.