New Research Suggests Connection between Gut Bacteria and Parkinson’s Symptoms

New research findings propose a way one’s gut bacteria may play a role in Parkinson’s disease (PD). Scientists are studying the connection between the intestinal tract and PD because the nervous systems of the gut and the brain are connected, because the primary PD protein alpha-synuclein is found in the gut, and because constipation is one of the first symptoms people with PD report.

Gut Check on Parkinson’s: New Findings on Bacteria LevelsA team from the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) looked at pre-clinical models with too much alpha-synuclein. Those with complex gut bacteria performed worse on motor skills tests than models with no gut bacteria.

A press release from CalTech reports, “When gut bacteria break down dietary fiber, they produce molecules called short-chain fatty acids (SFCAs) … Previous research has shown that these molecules also can activate immune responses in the brain. Thus, Mazmanian’s group hypothesized that an imbalance in the levels of SCFAs regulates brain inflammation and other symptoms of PD.”

The team implanted fecal samples from people with and without PD into the models without gut bacteria. The models with the PD samples showed higher levels of SCFAs and started exhibiting PD symptoms.

SFCAs may offer a new target to prevent, slow or stop Parkinson’s, and sending a drug to the gut may be safer than one against a brain target, the CalTech team says.

Read more on bacteria in the gut and the role it may play in Parkinson’s disease.

Find out more on the Parkinson’s research studies we are funding in Australia

Listen to a Podcast on Gut Bacteria and Parkinson’s disease

Source:  The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research