Scientists Find Link Between Parkinson's Disease and the Appendix

Parkinson's-inducing protein in the gut points to possible link between gastrointestinal tract and disease

Parkinson's-inducing protein in the gut points to possible link between gastrointestinal tract and disease

Using health registries in Sweden and the United States, researchers found that those who had their appendix removed in early adulthood generally saw their risk of developing the incurable neurodegenerative disorder cut by 19 percent, said the study in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Could the appendix be the cause of Parkinson's? The research "further supports the notion that [Parkinson's] starts in the gut", Dr. Ted Dawson, a professor of neurodegenerative diseases at Johns Hopkins University who was not part of the study, told Live Science.

No appendix? Your risk of Parkinson's is reduced by more than 20% Having your appendix removed comes with an unexpected advantage; scientists have discovered that an appendectomy reduces the risk of Parkinson's by up to 25 percent.

This breakthrough lights a spark of hope to searches for a cure, and findings add weight to understandings of the relationship between the gut and the brain. On the other hand, timely removal of appendicitis delays the diagnosis of Parkinson's in patients by 3.6 years on average.

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The study showed that nearly everyone in this study had alpha-synuclein protein present in their appendix.

Toxic proteins found in the appendix such as alpha synuclein build up in the brain and kill nerves; it is possible for these toxic proteins to travel from the GI tract via the vagus nerve to reach the brain. Given the appendix's potential role in maintaining the gut microbiome as well as in the immune system, perhaps there's actually some link between fluctuations in the microbiome or inflammation and Parkinson's as well, said Labrie.

Labrie said the fact that removal of the appendix was linked to a decreased risk and not complete protection suggested that there may be multiple sites of origin in the body for the disease.

Parkinson's disease has always been considered a disease of the brain, but research out Wednesday found it may start in the gut - specifically in the appendix, a tiny organ near the large intestine. While existing drugs help to control its symptoms, there are now none available that slow or halt its progression.

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