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People with brain health disorders, such as Parkinson’s, appear to have a specific type of digestive tract bacteria that can influence the severity of the illness. A new study based out of The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California, suggests researchers have found a solid link between gut bacteria and the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The Caltech experiment showed disease symptoms emerging in mice after fecal bacteria was transferred from humans with Parkinson’s disease.
The results from Caltech Sarkis Mazmanian Lab, led by post-doctoral researcher Tim Sampson, appeared recently in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Cell.
Mazmanian states. “It’s a provocative finding that needs to be further studied, but the fact that you can transplant the microbiome from humans to mice and transfer symptoms suggests that bacteria are a major contributor to disease.”
Because gastrointestinal problems often precede Parkinson’s disease, researchers began suspecting a connection between the gut, Parkinson and the symptomatic degeneration of people’s motor skills. Researchers theorized bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract can be related, but this newly released study presents the strongest evidence yet.
To test the theory, Caltech microbiologists compared the motor skills of mice with and without gut bacteria. Though both sets overproduced a protein related to Parkinson’s disease, the germ-free mice performed significantly better at running on treadmills, crossing a beam and descending from a pole, according to Caltech researchers.
The final test took fecal samples from humans with and without Parkinson’s disease and placed those samples inside mice without existing bacteria. Most notably, mice who received samples from healthy humans did not develop symptoms.