Parkinson's Disease Linked to Microbiome | Caltech

Caltech scientists have discovered for the first time a functional link between bacteria in the intestines and Parkinson's disease (PD). The researchers show that changes in the composition of gut bacterial populations—or possibly gut bacteria themselves—are actively contributing to and may even cause the deterioration of motor skills that is the hallmark of this disease.
When gut bacteria break down dietary fiber, they produce molecules called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as acetate and butyrate. Previous research has shown that these molecules also can activate immune responses in the brain. Thus, Mazmanian's group hypothesized that an imbalance in the levels of SCFAs regulates brain inflammation and other symptoms of PD. Indeed, when germ-free mice were fed SCFAs, cells called microglia—which are immune cells residing in the brain—became activated. Such inflammatory processes can cause neurons to malfunction or even die. In fact, germ-free mice fed SCFAs now showed motor disabilities and alpha=synuclein aggregation in regions of the brain linked to PD.

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