Recent findings have confirmed a long assumed, yet never officially proven, hypothesis regarding a functional link between the gut’s bacteria and the onset of Parkinson’s disease. While previous research has demonstrated strong correlations between the gut and the disease, no research has shown the exact relationship.
One of the world’s most prevalent neurodegenerative disorders, Parkinson’s affects approximately 1 million people in the United States. A progressive and chronic movement disorder, Parkinson’s involves the malfunction and ultimate death of the brain’s vital nerve cells: neurons. As the neurons that typically produce normal levels of dopamine—the chemical that communicates with the segment of the brain that controls coordination and movement—regularly decrease and dopamine levels lessen, a person becomes unable to control movement. Worsening symptoms include the gradual deterioration of motor symptoms: body tremors, bradykinesia/slowness of movement, rigidity, and severe postural instability.
The studies suggest a new, unprecedented way of treating the disease and its symptoms: targeting the gut, rather than the brain, and developing next-generation probiotics: a more sophisticated version than those readily available for purchase and consumption today.
Through conducting trials during which mice were fed certain short-chain fatty acids that are commonly produced by bacteria in the gut, in addition to actual samples of gut bacteria from human Parkinson’s patients and healthy human controls, the team found that the mice either exhibited symptoms, or did not produce symptoms, respectively. The team’s researchers expressed their hope in the possibility of the prescription of drugs that contain bacteria to prevent Parkinson’s, or treat the disease symptoms. Moreover, the studies imply that Parkinson’s is less related to hereditary genetics than environmental factors—including the onset of age.
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