The Guts behind PD

During the past 5 years, I have been fascinated by our gut’s role in so many different ailments and diseases from gastrointestinal issues to obesity and diabetes.  In the past couple of years, though, growing evidence is showing that it may pay a significant part in the development of Parkinson’s Disease.  Although the earliest evidence dates to Dr. James Parkinson’s discovery that many patients with Parkinson’s disease experienced constipation, researchers primarily focused on the brain.  It is now thought that the alpha-synuclein, which had previously thought to have originated in the brain may begin in the gut. 

And just recently researchers found that the appendix plays a big role in the production of alpha-synuclein.  According to research published on October 31, 2018 by Science Transitional Medicine, “Misfolded α-synuclein is a pathological hallmark of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Killinger et al. now report that the human appendix contains an abundance of misfolded α-synuclein and that removal of the appendix decreased the risk of developing PD.” 

All of this is so exciting on the path to a cure.  Now that scientists have identified where these mis-shaped alpha-synuclein originate, maybe they can stop them from traveling from the gut to the brain. Currently, there is a vaccine in testing that targets alpha-synuclein in Parkinson's patients, which would be able to remove these proteins from the brain.

—-written by Martie Vlcek

Parkinson's Place