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Degenerative proteins that cause Parkinson’s may originate in separate organ and travel to the brain

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder that causes certain nerve cells in the brain responsible for movement to gradually break down and die.

The damage results in uncontrollable tremors, stiffness and loss of balance. However, research shows the damage may not start in the brain, but somewhere else. 

The protein responsible for the breakdown of nerve cells is called alpha-synuclein. In healthy brains the protein dissolves and clears the brain. In patients with Parkinson’s, it builds up, clumps together and spreads.

Scientists discovered alpha-synuclein was also in their gut leading them to believe the infectious proteins originate in the gut and travel to the brain. But questions about how they travel to the brain from the gut remain. Still, this discovery could bring scientists one step closer to new, potential treatments.

“It’s possible that if it starts in the gut, then you could create treatments that prevent abnormal alpha-synuclein formation in these cells,“  Parkinson’s disease researcher, Dr. Rodger Liddle, writes in an interview. It’s possible you could develop dietary ways of treating those cells because those cells are lining the intestine. At this point, it’s difficult to imagine, but we will see.”

According to the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Strokes, an estimated five-hundred thousand Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year. But that number could be as high as one-million.