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Study Finds Parkinson’s Disease Originates in the Gut before Affecting the Brain

By Andrew Alpin, 27 June 2017

New research on Parkinson’s has just proved something incredible about the disease. Parkinson’s originates in the gut. All those health experts who have been crying themselves hoarse advocating gut health can be vindicated as to the big fact that a healthy gut is an important issue to general health.

There is a growing body of evidence suggesting the idea how Parkinson’s originates in the gut. Senior research author Doctor Rodger Liddle, professor of medicine at Duke University in North Carolina and his team observed how a corrupted protein which formed clumps in the brains of those with Parkinson’s was also found lining the small intestine. The new study was researched using both mice and human cells.

1Parkinson’s affects 10 million people worldwide

In Parkinson’s disease, infected nerve cells either malfunction or degenerate and die. It is a progressive movement disorder that is currently affecting 1 million people in the USA and almost 10 million people worldwide. The human brain contains a protein called alpha-synuclein which dissolves in the fluid of healthy nerve cells in the brain. In Parkinson’s the protein folds abnormally and spreads throughout the nervous system and then to the brain as an infected protein. Misfolded protein molecules then stick to each other forming clumps in the brain damaging neurons in the process.

Parkinson’s affects 10 million people worldwide

Image Source: www.medindia.net

2Earlier studies found those treated with ulcer surgery lowered their risk of Parkinson’s

A study in 2005 then reported how it found similar infected clumps of the same protein in the gut of patients suffering from Parkinson’s. Subsequent research done this year by Dr. Liddle focused on those who had ulcers and underwent surgery to remove the vagus nerve which connects the brain and stomach. Surprisingly these patients showed a 40% reduced risk of contracting Parkinson’s later in life as opposed to those who did not have their vagus nerve removed. This supported the idea that infected proteins causing Parkinson’s originated in the gut and then traveled to the brain via the vagus nerve. But!! The big question remained. HOW DID SUCH PROTEINS GET ALTERED TO THEIR INFECTIOUS STATE IN THE GUT?

Ulcer surgery lowered their risk of Parkinson’s

Image Source: www.thrillist.com

3The big answer how Proteins were altered in the gut

Although the altered proteins present in the gut was found in the lumen (space inside the gastrointestinal tract), the puzzling fact was that “nerves are not open to the lumen,” said gastroenterologist Dr. Rodger Liddle, senior author of the new paper which appeared on June 15th in the journal JCI Insight.

According to Liddle, the clue to how altered proteins moved from the lumen to nerve cells was found in the study of 2015. The new research found cells in the lining of the small intestine that acted like nerve cells. These were actually endocrine cells which produced hormones but they contained neurotransmitters and also proteins usually found in neurons. The cells even branched out in the same manner as neurons do for communication.

How Proteins were altered in the gut

Image Source: www.bbci.co.uk

4Endocrine cells behaved like nerve cells and connected with them

The endocrine cells being in close proximity of neurons even behaved like them and connected through fibers sprouting between the cells. It was this process that was captured on video in the research of 2015. Liddle concluded that these cells actually possessed nerve cell like properties. The new research also found that these endocrine cells also contained alpha-synuclein. Liddle’s research team now wants to establish that the endocrine cells present in Parkinson’s patients also carry the mutated or malformed version of alpha-synuclein.By establishing this; it will be conclusive proof that Parkinson’s disease is indeed originating in the gut and spreading from there via the vagus nerve.

Endocrine cells behaved like nerve cells

Image Source: www.medscape.com


5What is altering the structure of the alpha-synuclein protein?

Earlier research has shown that pesticide exposure and bacteria could be a likely cause of Parkinson’s. There is a possibility that these agents could be affecting the endocrine cells causing the malformation of the protein. As of now, these are possibilities which require further study but if established that Parkinson’s originates in the gut, it will be a giant leap in the understanding of Parkinson’s. Scientists could then formulate tests to diagnose Parkinson’s in earlier stages of its origins and form new ways to treat the disease and as they say “NIP IT IN THE GUT”

structure of the alpha-synuclein protein

Image Source: www.gastrocure.com