Now this is a new one on me. I had heard that Parkinsons patients often have associated gut troubles, but now they’re thinking that Parkinsons may actually start as a problem in the gut.
Let’s start from what we’re sure of: the pathophysiology of Parkinsons in the brain.
Parkinsons is caused by the death of neurons in the substania nigra of the midbrain, which creates a shortage of a very important neurotransmitter: dopamine. This shortage results in the typical Parkinsons symptoms we can see: tremors, bradykinesia (slow movements), rigidity and also depression.
Microscopically, the neurons are dying off because of a rogue protein, alpha-synuclein. I honestly don’t know what it does under normal circumstances, except that it is apparently very small, microscopic. But in Parkinsons, it goes rogue, clumps up and chokes the neuron to death.
This new research development is showing in mice that some environmental bacteria is driving the protein to go rogue.
They took some mice that were genetically programmed to have Parkinsons disease and placed them in 1 of 2 environments: regular or completely sterile aka bacteria-free. The ones in the regular environment developed Parkinsons as predicted, but the sterile mice’s symptoms were much reduced. To further test their hypothesis, they then took gut bacteria from people that Parkinsons disease and put it in the guts of the sterile environment mice. Then those mice that weren’t showing signs of Parkinsons, suddenly did and very badly too. They also treated the regular environment mice with antibiotics, effectively knocking out the bacteria and their symptoms were greatly reduced.
It looks like they’re not sure of how the gut bacteria are controlling the proteins in the brain. They’re hypothesizing it’s some kind of chemical cascade. I could have guessed that. Everything in the body is a chemical cascade really. Nor are they sure which particular bacteria is the culprit. This is where this research is headed next.
My family history is positive for Parkinsons and since there is a genetic factor (which research isn’t sure about either really), I am personally invested in finding answers here. Are the probiotics that I’m taking for short term gains harming me in the long run? That is the question.