Scientists find new gut-brain connection in Parkinson’s disease development

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A pre-clinical study led by Duke Health researchers has shed light on the gut-brain connection in Parkinson’s disease progression.

The study describes how a protein found in the gut, called alpha-synuclein (⍺-synuclein), travels through the nervous system to reach susceptible nerves in the brain.

The research suggests that when alpha-synuclein proteins become corrupted in the gut, they can spread to the brain, forming clumps known as Lewy bodies, which are a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease and other forms of dementia.

The gut’s role in the development of Parkinson’s has gained attention in recent years, with gastrointestinal symptoms often preceding motor skill decline in patients.

The study focused on enteroendocrine cells in the gut, which harbor alpha-synuclein and transport it from gut mucosal cells to the brainstem via the vagus nerve, connecting the gut and brain.

The research team was able to inhibit the spread of alpha-synuclein by severing the vagus nerve in animal experiments, providing potential insights for future therapies to block the transport system or reset altered gut-brain signaling.

Understanding the gut-brain connection in Parkinson’s disease progression could lead to new approaches for treatment and intervention.

Parkinson’s is a degenerative disorder that affects voluntary movement and is estimated to impact up to 10 million people worldwide.

If you care about Parkinson’s disease, please read studies about Vitamin E that may help prevent Parkinson’s disease, and Vitamin D could benefit people with Parkinson’s disease.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about new way to treat Parkinson’s disease, and results showing COVID-19 may be linked to Parkinson’s disease.

The research findings can be found in JCI Insights.

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