A common intestinal bacteria can delay and even reverse the accumulation of a protein associated with Parkinson’s, new research suggests.
The researchers identified a probiotic, or the so-called “good bacteria,” that prevent the formation of toxic groups that deprive the brain of dopamine, a key chemical that coordinates movement.
“Exciting” findings are expected to pave the way for future studies that assess how supplements such as probiotics impact the condition.
In the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease, the alpha-synuclein protein builds up, forming toxic groups that are associated with the death of nerve cells responsible for producing dopamine.
The loss of these cells causes the motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s, which include freezing, trembling and slow movement.
Researchers from the universities of Edinburgh and Dundee used altered roundworms to produce the human version of alpha-synuclein that forms groups.
They fed these worms with different types of over-the-counter probiotics to see if the bacteria in them could affect the formation of toxic groups.
The scientists discovered that a probiotic called bacillus subtilis had a remarkable protective effect against protein accumulation and also eliminated some of the groups of proteins already formed, which improved the movement of roundworms.
The researchers also found that the bacteria was able to prevent the formation of toxic groups of alpha-synuclein by producing chemicals that change the way enzymes in cells process specific fats called sphingolipids.
It is the latest in a series of recent studies that have found a link between brain function and the thousands of different types of bacteria that live in the digestive system, known as the intestinal microbiome.
The principal investigator, Dr. Maria Doitsidou, of the discovery brain science center at the University of Edinburgh, said: “The results provide an opportunity to investigate how changing the bacteria that make up our gut microbiome affects Parkinson’s.”
“The next steps are to confirm these results in mice, followed by accelerated clinical trials since the probiotic we tested is already commercially available.”
The study, published in the journal Cell Reports, was funded by the United Kingdom of Parkinson, EMBO and the European Commission.
Dr. Beckie Port, Parkinson’s research manager in the United Kingdom, said: “It is believed that changes in the microorganisms in the intestine play a role in the onset of Parkinson’s in some cases and are related to certain symptoms, so There is ongoing research on intestinal health and probiotics.
“The results of this study are exciting, as they show a link between the bacteria in the intestine and the protein in the heart of Parkinson’s alpha-synuclein.”
“Studies that identify bacteria that are beneficial in Parkinson’s have the potential not only to improve symptoms, but could even protect people from developing the condition in the first place.”