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Dec 07, 2016 08:24 AM EST

CalTech Research: Parkinson’s Disease Linked to Presence of Microbiomes

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A recent discovery of CalTech scientists may have a great impact on the treatment of Parkinson's Disease (PD). The presence of microbiome aggravates production of alpha­synuclein (αSyn) proteins in the cells within the brain and gut which is one of the symptoms of PD.

Microbiomes are a community of diverse bacteria that can either be good or harmful that permanently resides in the gut and performs an important function in the development of the immune and nervous systems as well as their functions.

PD is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder that affects 1 million people in the US and an estimated 10 million more people around the globe. Its symptoms include impaired motor skills making walking difficult and having uncontrollable tremors. Gastrointestinal (GI) problems like constipation and the presence of cytokines, an inflammatory molecule within the brain.

Since 70% of neurons in the peripheral nervous system is found in the intestines, scientists considered the possibility that gut bacteria may have some effect in the development of PD. This also became apparent since most PD patients have a history of GI problems prior to showing motor symptoms of the disease.

The experiment is conducted with 2 groups of mice, one with different types of gut bacteria and the other group is generally referred to as germ-free mice. These germ-free mice are bred in a sterile CalTech facility, hence their guts are bacteria free.

Physical activities like crossing beams and running on treadmills were used to test the motor skills of the mice and it was found that the germ-free group outperformed the other.

The scientists later on used short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) from gut bacteria of and fed them to the germ-free mice. SCFAs were taken from both healthy and PD infected sources. The group fed with the healthy SCFAs did not have their immune response activated which is the opposite of that happened to the other group.Mice fed with infected samples later on showed motor difficulties associated with PD symptoms.

The study which appeared in Cell found that gut bacteria is a major contributor to the disease and the microbiomes causes the reaction and development of symptoms.

The biggest implication of the study includes the possible administration of drugs in the GI instead of the brain. This could also lead to the development of safer therapies for patients

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