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Potato starch shows promise for bone marrow transplant patients

Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Michigan have unveiled findings from a phase I pilot study, published in Nature Medicine, that delves into the potential of potato starch as a dietary supplement to modify the gut microbiome in bone marrow transplant recipients.

According to a news release issued by Baylor College of Medicine, this is part of an ongoing two-phase clinical trial investigating the effects of microbiome modifications on the incidence of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). GVHD is a severe complication that can affect up to half of bone marrow transplant patients, leading to significant health challenges.

Dr. Pavan Reddy, the study’s senior author, highlighted the vital role of the gut microbiome, a diverse community of microbes within our bodies, in influencing our overall health. Past research indicated that post-bone marrow transplant, the gut microbiome undergoes changes that can intensify GVHD. The study aimed to determine if altering the microbiome could mitigate GVHD progression.

Earlier findings from Reddy’s lab showed that butyrate, a compound produced by gut bacteria when digesting resistant potato starch, was reduced in mice with GVHD. Increasing butyrate levels by promoting butyrate-producing bacteria reduced GVHD severity in experimental settings.

Dr. Reddy emphasized that elevated butyrate levels in the gut can aid in healing the intestine, potentially alleviating GVHD. Previous studies also confirmed that potato starch boosts butyrate-producing bacteria and butyrate levels in healthy individuals.

The study’s primary goal was to ascertain if enhancing intestinal butyrate levels in bone marrow transplant patients could curb GVHD progression. Dr. Mary Riwes shared that the initial phase assessed the safety of giving a resistant potato starch supplement to 10 bone marrow transplant patients for over 100 days. The results were encouraging: over 80% of participants consumed 84% of the potato starch doses without adverse effects, and those who took the supplement showed higher butyrate levels in their stools.

The next phase, set to begin at Baylor College of Medicine, will further explore potato starch’s potential in reducing post-transplant GVHD. Dr. Reddy expressed optimism, noting a significant reduction in GVHD occurrence among study participants.

Source: Baylor College of Medicine (BCM). Original release here
Photo: Credit BCM

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