The connections between Parkinson's and the gastrointestinal tract are known. But now a group of scientists has made a breakthrough on the link with the appendix that adds new tracks research on the origin of this disorder.
People who had the appendix removed from youth had a 19 percent to 25 percent lower risk of developing Parkinson's in later life, according to a study published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
"Our results point to the appendix as a place of origin for Parkinson's and provide a way to project new treatment strategies to take advantage of the role of the gastrointestinal tract in the development of the disease, "said lead author Viviane Labrie of the Van Andel Research Institute in Michigan.
Because? A look at the tissue of an excised appendix shows that that tiny organ, often thought to be useless, seems to be a deposit of an abnormal protein (abnormally folded alpha-synuclein) which, if it reaches the brain, becomes a central feature of Parkinson's disease.
The big surprise, according to the results of the study, is that many people may have worrying protein concentrations in their appendices: young and old, people with healthy brains and Parkinson's disease.
But do not rush to the surgeon.
"We're not saying he's going through an appendectomy," said the neuroscientist and geneticist who led the team of researchers who analyzed data from two large epidemiological studies, one of 1.6 million people and another 91 million. .
After all, many people without the organ end up developing Parkinson's and others who have the protein never get sick, the article says.
The risk reduction only became evident when the appendix and the alpha-synuclein it contained were eliminated at an early stage of life, years before the onset of the disease, suggesting that the organ could participate in its onset. Its elimination after the onset of the disease process, however, had no effect on its progression.
In a general population, people who had an appendectomy were 19% less likely to develop Parkinson's disease, which was increased in people living in rural areas, with a 25% reduction in the risk of developing the disease. On the contrary, the interventions had no apparent benefit in people whose disease was related to genetic mutations transmitted by their families, a group comprising less than 10% of the cases.
The efforts of the scientific community focus on understanding the origin of this disorder so that it can be treated early, as patients arrive at the office when motor symptoms appear, such as tremor or stiffness, a sign that the disease is already advanced.
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Doctors and patients have known for some time that there is a connection between the gastrointestinal tract and Parkinson's disease. Constipation and other problems of the treatment They are common in people who start to feel tremors and other movement problems that lead to the diagnosis of the disease.
The recent study will stimulate further research to try to find new clues as to why and who is actually at risk.
"It's a piece of the puzzle, a fundamental clue"said Dr. Allison Willis, a University of Pennsylvania Parkinson specialist who was not involved in the new studies, but says her patients regularly ask about gastrointestinal connections.
The scientific director of the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, James Beck, who was not part of the studies, also stated that "There are many promising connections".
He noted that, despite its reputation, the appendix has a role in immunity that can influence inflammation. The type of bacteria that lives in the appendix can also affect Parkinson's disease.
(Source: AP / LAURAN NEERGAARD-EFE)