Scientists at Van Andel Institute discover link between Parkinson’s disease and appendix

Image credit Funding Neuro

Image credit Funding Neuro

Their study was published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

He noted that despite its reputation, the appendix appears to play a role in immunity that may influence gut inflammation.

Knowing that people with Parkinson's also suffer from gastrointestinal disorders like constipation at least 10 years before the disease's better known symptoms like tremors, stiffness, and poor balance appear, researchers made a decision to take a closer look at the appendix and its potential role.

"Any of these differences might be the cause of the decreased risk of Parkinson's disease in those who had their appendix out, rather than the removal of their appendix".

They found that almost everyone has signs of clumped up alpha-synuclein present in their appendix.

"Some scientists have called the intestine the second brain, because of the number of neurons that are present in there", said co-author Patrik Brundin, director of the Center for Neurodegenerative Science at Van Andel Research Institute. The type of bacteria that live in the gut also may affect Parkinson's.

After all, there are plenty of people who have no appendix yet still develop Parkinson's.

But if it really is common to harbor that Parkinson's-linked protein, "what we don't know is what starts it, what gets this whole ball rolling", Beck said. One main theory: Maybe bad "alpha-synuclein" protein can travel from nerve fibers in the GI tract up the vagus nerve, which connects the body's major organs to the brain.

In Parkinson's, toxic proteins build up in the brain to kill nerves, particularly those linked with movement.

There have been prior clues.

Researchers say it's possible that someday, drug therapies could be developed to cut down on the protein's accumulation in the appendix, thereby lowering the risk of Parkinson's. Some smaller studies have suggested appendectomies, too, might be protective - but the results were conflicting.

Former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook reignites war with hated rival Patrick Beverley
A timeout was immediately called by Thunder head coach Billy Donovan in an attempt to calm the situation down. There's history between Beverley and Westbrook that certainly came into play on Tuesday.

The team at Van Andel collaborated with researchers at Lund University, Sweden, to comb through records for 1,698,000 people followed up to 52 years, a total of almost 92 million person-years.

"People who had their appendix removed in early life will, on average, differ from people who didn't, in several ways", said McConway, who was not involved in the research.

One puzzling caveat: People living in rural areas appeared to get the benefit.

Claire Bale, head of research at Parkinson's United Kingdom, said: "There is much still to learn about how surgical approaches, such as removing the appendix, may stop the progression of toxic proteins that cause Parkinson's".

Using health registries in Sweden covering some 1.7 million people followed for 50 years, and a second U.S. dataset encompassing 849 people, researchers found that those who had their appendix removed in early adulthood generally saw their risk of developing Parkinson's disease cut by 19%, said the study in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

So next, Labrie's team examined appendix tissue from 48 Parkinson's-free people.

Overall, finding a link between the appendix and Parkinson's is significant, he said. Whether the appendix was inflamed or not also didn't matter.

Viviane Labrie, an assistant professor at Van Andel Research Institute in MI and senior author of the study, said: "Despite having a reputation as largely unnecessary, the appendix actually plays a major part in our immune systems, in regulating the makeup of our gut bacteria and now, as shown by our work, in Parkinson's disease". There has to be another step that makes it unsafe only for certain people.

Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University in the United Kingdom, told the Science Media Centre that the study is "competent", yet he also had a criticism based on the researchers' use of statistics.

And Penn's Willis adds another caution: There are other unrelated risks for Parkinson's disease, such as suffering a traumatic brain injury.

"If it were to enter the brain, it can seed and spread from there and have neurotoxic effects that could eventually lead to Parkinson's disease", she said.

Recommended News

We are pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news.
Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper.
Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.