Parkinson's disease may begin in the gut

New research indicates that Parkinson's disease may begin in the gastrointestinal tract and spread through the vagus nerve to the brain.

We have conducted a registry study of almost 15,000 patients
who have had the vagus nerve in their stomach severed. Between
approximately 1970-1995 this procedure was a very common method of ulcer
treatment. If it really is correct that Parkinson's starts in the gut
and spreads through the vagus nerve, then these vagotomy patients should
naturally be protected against developing Parkinson's disease,"
explains postdoc at Aarhus University Elisabeth Svensson on the
hypothesis behind the study.
"The study shows that patients who have had the the entire vagus
nerve severed were protected against Parkinson's disease. Their risk was
halved after 20 years. However, patients who had only had a small part
of the vagus nerve severed where not protected. This also fits the
hypothesis that the disease process is strongly dependent on a fully or
partially intact vagus nerve to be able to reach and affect the brain,"
she says.
The research project has just been published in the internationally recognised journal Annals of Neurology.

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