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Gut bacteria could unlock new treatment for Parkinson’s disease

Researchers say a probiotic found in the stomach could stop the disease from developing

Photo (c) Zerbor - Getty Images
Consumers who develop Parkinson’s disease are all too aware of how it can wreak havoc on the nervous system and affect mobility. But findings from a recent study offer hope of a future treatment option that could prevent the disease altogether. 

A team of researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and Dundee found that a certain “good” bacteria in the gut was successful at stopping the formation of “toxic clumps” of a protein that is responsible for the disease. If used in the development of a treatment, the probiotic could prove to be a huge boon to consumers suffering from the disorder.

“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...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,” said Dr. Beckie Port, a research manager at charity organization Parkinson’s UK.

Fighting toxic clumps

The researchers note that Parkinson’s disease is caused by the misfolding and build-up of a protein called alpha-synuclein. When these build-ups become big enough, they tend to form toxic clumps that kill cells that are responsible for producing dopamine, which starves the brain of the chemical and leads to issues with motor function. 

To come to their findings, the researchers tested several over-the-counter probiotics in modified roundworms to see if any of them were effective at stopping these clumps from forming. They found that one type of bacteria called Bacillus subtilis was able to achieve this feat, which improved movement symptoms in the test subjects.

Bacillus subtilis is most commonly found in a person’s gut, and the researchers hope that using it will allow for new innovations and treatment options.

“The results provide an opportunity to investigate how changing the bacteria that make up our gut microbiome affects Parkinson’s,” said lead researcher Dr. Maria Doitsidou. 

The team’s full study has been published in the journal Cell Reports.

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