Parkinson’s disease may begin in the intestinal system

A new study has shown that Parkinson’s disease could originate in the intestinal system and then move forward to the brain, leading to new evidence on a theory once proposed in 2003 by Heiko Braak, a German professor at the Institute of Clinical Neuroanatomy. The findings were available in Acta Neuropathologica.

A team of researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark led experiments on genetically modified rodents with excessive amounts of alpha-synuclein, a protein encoded by the SNCA gene. The increased levels of the protein were achieved by administering alpha-synuclein directly into the duodenum wall and demonstrating its spread to the brain through the peripheral nerves.

“After two months, we saw that the alpha-synuclein had traveled to the brain via the peripheral nerves with involvement of precisely those structures known to be affected in connection with Parkinson’s disease in humans,” according to Per Borghammer, a professor at Aarhus University.

“After four months, the magnitude of the pathology was even greater. It was actually pretty striking to see how quickly it happened.”

“With this new study, we’ve uncovered exactly how the disease is likely to spread from the intestines of people. We probably cannot develop effective medical treatments that halts the disease without knowing where it starts and how it spreads – so this is an important step in our research.”

In a previous study, released in the journal Neuron, researchers uncovered similar evidence that supports a gut-brain connection associated with neurodegenerative symptoms of Parkinson’s. The study was conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.