Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine conducted studies in mice to investigate whether the toxic misfolded alpha-synuclein protein, which is a hallmark of Parkinson's, could travel along the vagus nerve, which runs like an electrical cable between the stomach and small intestine into the base of the brain. This study was prompted by previous research by German neuroanatomist, Heiko Braak, that showed people with Parkinson's had a build-up of the misfolded alpha-synuclein in parts of the central nervous system that control the gut.

Evidence from this latest study showed that alpha-synuclein began building where the vagus nerve connected to the gut and continued to spread through all parts of the brain. It also demonstrated that blocking the transmission route could be key to preventing the physical and cognitive manifestations of Parkinson's.

Professor Ted Dawson, M.D. Ph.D, Director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering, Professor of Neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a member of CPT's Linked Clinical Trials committee says,

“These findings provide further proof of the gut’s role in Parkinson’s disease, and gives us a model to study the disease’s progression from the start... This is an exciting discovery for the field and presents a target for early intervention in the disease”

CPT's Deputy CEO, Helen Matthews says,

"These findings are very important as they not only provide further evidence of the role of the gut in Parkinson’s, an area CPT has been involved with since 2009, but also provides a model for researchers to study Parkinson’s progression, which is vital if we are to evaluate and test disease modifying treatments and develop cures for Parkinson’s."

Further reading 

www.cureparkinsons.org.uk/News/gut-parkinsons

www.cureparkinsons.org.uk/News/parkinsons-starts-in-gut