Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) has been shown to acutely alter the gut microbiome diversity and composition, known as dysbiosis, which can further exacerbate metabolic and vascular changes in the brain in both humans and rodents. However, it remains unknown how mTBI affects the gut microbiome in the chronic phase recovery (past one week post injury). It is also unknown if injury recovery can be improved by mitigating dysbiosis. The goal of the study is to fill the knowledge gap. First, we aim to understand how mTBI alters the gut microbiome through the chronic period of recovery (3 months post injury). In addition, as the gut microbiome can be modulated by diet, we also investigated if prebiotic inulin, a fermentable fiber that promotes growth of beneficial bacteria and metabolites, would mitigate dysbiosis, improve systemic metabolism, and protect brain structural and vascular integrity when administered after 3 months post closed head injury (CHI). We found that CHI given to male mice at 4 months of age induced gut dysbiosis which peaked at 1.5 months post injury, reduced cerebral blood flow (CBF) and altered brain white matter integrity. Interestingly, we also found that Sham mice had transient dysbiosis, which peaked 24 hours after injury and then normalized. After 8 weeks of inulin feeding, CHI mice had increased abundance of beneficial/anti-inflammatory bacteria, reduced abundance of pathogenic bacteria, enriched levels of short-chain fatty acids, and restored CBF in both hippocampi and left thalamus, compared to the CHI-control fed and Sham groups. Using machine learning, we further identified top bacterial species that separate Sham and CHI mice with and without the diet. Our results indicate that there is an injury- and time-dependent dysbiosis between CHI and Sham mice; inulin is effective to mitigate dysbiosis and improve brain injury recovery in the CHI mice. As there are currently no effective treatments for mTBI, the study may have profound implications for developing therapeutics or preventive interventions in the future.
Traumatic brain injury, Inulin diet, gut microbiome, Short chain fatty acids, Cerebral blood flow, MRI, Machine learning