Saturday February 29, 2020

Risk Of Parkinson’s Disease And Appendix Removal Linked: Scientists

There are other unrelated risks for Parkinson's disease, such as suffering a traumatic brain injury.

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Sclerosis, Parkinson's Disease, Kepler, NASA, tissue
A researcher takes a tissue sample from a human brain at the Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s UK Tissue Bank, at Imperial College London, Britain June 3, 2016. An appendix, often considered useless, seems to store an abnormal protein, which if it makes its way into the brain, has been found to become a hallmark of Parkinson's. VOA

Scientists have found a new clue that Parkinson’s disease may get its start not in the brain but in the gut – maybe in the appendix.

People who had their appendix removed early in life had a lower risk of getting the tremor-inducing brain disease decades later, researchers reported Wednesday.

Why? A peek at surgically removed appendix tissue shows this tiny organ, often considered useless, seems to be a storage depot for an abnormal protein – one that, if it somehow makes its way into the brain, becomes a hallmark of Parkinson’s.

The big surprise, according to studies published in the journal Science Translational Medicine: Lots of people may harbor clumps of that worrisome protein in their appendix – young and old, people with healthy brains and those with Parkinson’s.

Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson’s Disease Gets Awareness From Various Events. Flickr

But don’t look for a surgeon just yet.

“We’re not saying to go out and get an appendectomy,” stressed Viviane Labrie of Michigan’s Van Andel Research Institute, a neuroscientist and geneticist who led the research team.

After all, there are plenty of people who have no appendix yet still develop Parkinson’s. And plenty of others harbor the culprit protein but never get sick, according to her research.

The gut connection

Doctors and patients have long known there’s some connection between the gastrointestinal tract and Parkinson’s. Constipation and other GI troubles are very common years before patients experience tremors and movement difficulty that lead to a Parkinson’s diagnosis.

Wednesday’s research promises to re-energize work to find out why, and learn who’s really at risk.

Parkinson's Disease
GREAT MANCHESTER RUN 2010.Parkinson’s UK Runners

“This is a great piece of the puzzle. It’s a fundamental clue,” said Dr. Allison Willis, a Parkinson’s specialist at the University of Pennsylvania who wasn’t involved in the new studies but says her patients regularly ask about the gut link.

Parkinson’s Foundation chief scientific officer James Beck, who also wasn’t involved, agreed that “there’s a lot of tantalizing potential connections.”

He noted that despite its reputation, the appendix appears to play a role in immunity that may influence gut inflammation. The type of bacteria that live in the gut also may affect Parkinson’s.

But if it really is common to harbor that Parkinson’s-linked protein, “what we don’t know is what starts it, what gets this whole ball rolling,” Beck said.

For years, scientists have hypothesized about what might cause the gut-Parkinson’s connection. One main theory: Maybe bad “alpha-synuclein” protein can travel from nerve fibers in the GI tract up the vagus nerve, which connects the body’s major organs to the brain. Abnormal alpha-synuclein is toxic to brain cells involved with movement.

Parkinson's Disease
That’s a crucial finding because it means merely harboring the protein in the gut isn’t enough to trigger Parkinson’s. Flickr

There have been prior clues. People who decades ago had the vagus nerve cut as part of a now-abandoned therapy had a reduced risk of Parkinson’s. Some smaller studies have suggested appendectomies, too, might be protective – but the results were conflicting.

Labrie’s team set out to find stronger evidence.

First, the researchers analyzed Sweden’s huge national health database, examining medical records of nearly 1.7 million people tracked since 1964. The risk of developing Parkinson’s was 19 percent lower among those who had their appendix surgically removed decades earlier.

One puzzling caveat: People living in rural areas appeared to get the benefit. Labrie said it’s possible that the appendix plays a role in environmental risk factors for Parkinson’s, such as pesticide exposure.

Further analysis suggested people who developed Parkinson’s despite an early-in-life appendectomy tended to have symptoms appear a few years later than similarly aged patients.

parkinson's disease
The main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are tremor, slowness of movement (bradykinesia) and muscle stiffness or rigidity. Wikimedia commons

A common protein

That kind of study doesn’t prove that removing the appendix is what reduces the risk, cautioned Dr. Andrew Feigin, executive director of the Parkinson’s institute at NYU Langone Health, who wasn’t involved in Wednesday’s research.

So next, Labrie’s team examined appendix tissue from 48 Parkinson’s-free people. In 46 of them, the appendix harbored the abnormal Parkinson’s-linked protein. So did some Parkinson’s patients. Whether the appendix was inflamed or not also didn’t matter.

That’s a crucial finding because it means merely harboring the protein in the gut isn’t enough to trigger Parkinson’s, Labrie said. There has to be another step that makes it dangerous only for certain people.

“The difference we think is how you manage this pathology,” she said – how the body handles the buildup.

Parkinson’s disease is named after Dr James Parkinson (1755-1824), the doctor that first identified the condition. Wikimedia commons
Parkinson’s disease is named after Dr James Parkinson (1755-1824), the doctor that first identified the condition. Wikimedia commons

Her team plans additional studies to try to tell.

The reservoir finding is compelling, Feigin said, but another key question is if the abnormal protein also collects in healthy people’s intestines.

Also Read: Travelling To Space May Alter Brain, Says Study

And Penn’s Willis adds another caution: There are other unrelated risks for Parkinson’s disease, such as suffering a traumatic brain injury.

“This could be one of many avenues that lead to Parkinson’s disease, but it’s a very exciting one,” she said. (VOA)

Next Story

Less Food Consumption is The Key To Long Life: Study

According to a study, published in the journal Cell, researchers from the US and China provided the most detailed report of the cellular effects of a calorie-restricted diet in rats

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Food
While the benefits of caloric restriction have long been known, the new results show how this restriction can protect against aging in cellular pathways. Pixabay

If you want to live longer, reduce levels of inflammation throughout your body and delay the onset of age-related diseases — eat less food, say researchers.

According to a study, published in the journal Cell, researchers from the US and China provided the most detailed report of the cellular effects of a calorie-restricted diet in rats, say researchers.

According to a study, published in the journal Cell, researchers from the US and China provided the most detailed report of the cellular effects of a calorie-restricted diet in rats.

While the benefits of caloric restriction have long been known, the new results show how this restriction can protect against aging in cellular pathways.

“We already knew that calorie restriction increases life span, but now we’ve shown all the changes that occur at a single-cell level to cause that,” said study senior author Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte from the Salk Institute in the US

“This gives us targets that we may eventually be able to act on with drugs to treat aging in humans,” Belmonte added. For the findings, the research team compared rats who ate 30 per cent fewer calories with rats on normal diets.

The diet of animals in the age group of 18-27 months was controlled. (In humans, this would be roughly equivalent to someone following a calorie-restricted diet from the age of 50 to 70.) The research team isolated and analysed a total of 168,703 cells from 40 cell types in the 56 rats from starting as well as during the conclusion of the diet. The cells came from fat tissues, liver, kidney, aorta, skin, bone marrow, brain and muscle.

In each isolated cell, the researchers used single-cell genetic-sequencing technology to measure the activity levels of genes. They also looked at the overall composition of cell types within any given tissue. Then, they compared old and young mice on each diet.

Many of the changes that occurred as rats on the normal diet grew older didn’t occur in rats on a restricted diet; even in old age, many of the tissues and cells of animals on the diet closely resembled those of young rats.

Kimchi, Korean, Traditional Food
If you want to live longer, reduce levels of inflammation throughout your body and delay the onset of age-related diseases — eat less food, say researchers. Pixabay

Overall, 57 per cent of the age-related changes in cell composition seen in the tissues of rats on a normal diet were not present in the rats on the calorie restricted diet, the study said. “This approach not only told us the effect of calorie restriction on these cell types, but also provided the most complete and detailed study of what happens at a single-cell level during aging,” said study researcher Guang-Hui Liu from Chinese Academy of Sciences in China. According to the study, some of the cells and genes most affected by the diet related to immunity, inflammation and lipid metabolism.

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The number of immune cells in nearly every tissue studied dramatically increased as control rats aged but was not affected by age in rats with restricted calories.

In brown adipose tissue–one type of fat tissue–a calorie-restricted diet reverted the expression levels of many anti-inflammatory genes to those seen in young animals, the research said. (IANS)