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New research shows Parkinson's disease origins in the gut

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

Story at-a-glance -

  • Parkinson’s disease may originate in the gastrointestinal tract
  • Researchers injected misfolded alpha-synuclein, a protein linked to Parkinson’s disease, into the guts of healthy mice, then tracked it
  • One month later, it had turned up in the brainstem, while after three months it had traveled to the brain’s amygdala and midbrain; within seven and 10 months, it had turned up in even more regions of the brain
  • The researchers also injected the misfolded proteins into the guts of mice that had a severed vagus nerve; after seven months, no signs of cell death were present in the mice brains, and it appeared that the proteins were not able to advance to the brain
  • Problems with memory and anxiety also appeared in the intact vagus nerve mice that received the misfolded proteins in their guts, which were not seen in the other groups of mice

Your gut is a key player in your overall health, playing a role in your risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, obesity, sleep problems and depression. Parkinson’s disease, a central nervous system disorder that causes symptoms such as tremors and balance problems, however, has long been a disease of idiopathic origins, meaning there’s no known cause.

Research published in the journal Neuron may challenge this notion, as it further supports the notion that Parkinson’s disease may originate in cells in the gut and travel to the brain via the vagus nerve the 10th cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem down to your abdomen.

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