New Study Identifies Link Between Gut Health & Parkinson's Disease

mbg Editorial Assistant By Christina Coughlin
mbg Editorial Assistant
Christina Coughlin is an editorial assistant at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Georgetown University in 2019 with a degree in psychology and music.
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According to doctors, Parkinson's disease is currently the fastest growing neurological condition in the world. Every hour, two more people are diagnosed, and it affects all ages.

There are up to 40 symptoms that affect a Parkinson's patient, from tremors and movement issues to general pain and anxiety. At this time, no treatment has been able to slow the progression of the disease. Researchers at Parkinson's U.K. have taken a step toward a potential treatment, however. Their newest study identified a link between the gut microbiome and the development of Parkinson's.

Researchers conducted tests on roundworms that had been genetically engineered to produce alpha-synuclein, a protein that's linked to the development of Parkinson's. This protein develops toxic clumps, which are what cause the disease. The clumps can affect motor systems leading to symptoms like freezing, tremors, and slowness, all common with Parkinson's. Researchers fed these worms a variety of different over-the-counter probiotics to see how each kind could affect the growth of alpha-synuclein and the toxic clumps.

Scientists identified the most effective probiotic to be something called Bacillus subtilis. Not only did it prevent a greater buildup of the protein and clump, but it was actually able to clear some of the lumps that had already been created. The worms that took this probiotic showed improved motor function and produced a new chemical that prevented the formation of more toxic clumps. 

"The results from this study are exciting as they show a link between bacteria in the gut and the protein at the heart of Parkinson's, alpha synuclein," says researcher manager Beckie Port, Ph.D. "Studies that identify bacteria that are beneficial in Parkinson's have the potential to not only improve symptoms but could even protect people from developing the condition in the first place."

The next step will be to confirm results with a study on mice. Researchers said that after mice can mimic the same results, clinical trials will be easier to approve because the probiotic they're testing is already commercially available. Doctors will then look to use this specific probiotic Bacillus subtilis as a potential treatment for Parkinson's disease.

Each study like this provides more information to researchers and doctors, which in turn helps them better understand the disease itself. With more understanding of Parkinson's disease, we get closer to a cure each day.

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