The study was carried out by Professor Dominik Müller’s research group at the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC ), a joint institution of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. Dr. Nicola Wilck, a physician and scientist at Charité’s Medical Department, Division of Nephrology and Internal Intensive Care Medicine CVK/CCM, was the lead author of the study. The findings were published at the end of 2017 in the scientific journal Nature.
The study showed that too much salt depletes the amount of lactobacilli bacteria in the gut of mice, while simultaneously causing an increase in blood pressure and number of T helper 17 (Th17) cells. These immune cells are associated with high blood pressure and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis. However, when the mice received probiotic lactobacilli in addition to their high-salt diet, their blood pressure and number of Th17 cells dropped. The probiotics also alleviated the neurological symptoms of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, the most commonly used disease model for multiple sclerosis. The researchers were therefore able to identify the microbiome as an important factor in diseases affected by salt. A pilot study on humans showed similar results, meaning this research could lead to new treatment options for patients in the future.
For 50 years, the DGIM has annually recognized the best clinical-experimental work in the field of internal medicine with its highest award, which comes with a €30,000 prize. “We are particularly pleased that the award has gone to an early-career scientist who wishes to pursue a professional career in nephrology,” says Professor Andreas Kribben, president of the German Society of Nephrology (DGfN). “This demonstrates the excellence of the nephrological research being undertaken in Germany and also goes to show how central nephrological topics are to internal medicine as a whole.”
Nicola Wilck et al. (2017): “Salt-responsive gut commensal modulates TH17 axis and disease.” Nature.