Parkinson’s – does it begin in the gut?
Parkinson’s disease is a condition that affects the brain, with the death of cells that secrete dopamine leading to impairment of motor functions, along with other symptoms. But a growing body of research points to the ‘second brain’ we have in our gut as the potential starting place of the disease.
Scientists from Sweden and the US have recently published the results of a study suggesting that the enteric nervous system is affected in the very earliest stages of Parkinson’s. The enteric nervous system is a collection of hundreds of millions of neurons in the gut, that regulates the digestive system and operates independently of the brain.
By observing gene expression in mice and analysing brain tissue of healthy people and those with various stages of Parkinson’s disease, the researchers found changes in enteric neurons at the earliest stages of the condition.
This insight suggests that the disease begins the gut before reaching the brain via the vagus nerve.
The researchers also found that another type of brain cell, known as oligodendrocytes, were affected before the dopamine-secreting neurons. This offers new possibilities for therapies for the disease in the future.
At PIM we have a particular interest in the gut and its effects on our health and wellbeing. Contact us to find out more.