Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder which affects the brain, whereby the neurons gradually break down or die. These neurons are responsible for producing dopamine and a decrease in this chemical results in abnormal brain activity and eventually Parkinson’s disease. The disease starts out gradually and as it progresses, symptoms become more pronounced including shaking hands, tremors, rigid muscles, a loss of automatic movements such as swinging your arms when you walk, among other signs of the illness.
Parkinson’s affects around 1 million Americans and 10 million people globally and is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder behind Alzheimer’s disease. In years gone by it was surmised that a person’s genes or their exposure to certain environmental toxins was the driving factor behind the cause of the disease. However, recent studies performed by researchers from America and Europe on mice, have found that changing the gut bacteria has had an effect on changing the dynamics of Parkinson’s. Researchers are now focusing their efforts on treating the gut as opposed to the brain.
The experiments were performed on mice which were genetically engineered to develop Parkinson’s. It was found that the sterile mice without gut microbiota did not develop symptoms of the disease, whereas the mice with certain gut bacteria did. Further experiments confirmed these findings when gut bacteria from infected humans was transplanted into mice and they became exposed to the disease.
Currently there is no cure for Parkinson’s, however medication and various therapies can help treat the symptoms and make life living with the disease a little easier. The gut-brain connection has opened a whole new world of research and possibilities for people suffering with the Parkinson’s.