Gut bacteria and PD

Could changes in gut bacteria contribute to the development of Parkinson’s disease in those with genetic risk?

Via World Parkinson’s Congress: Mutations in the GBA1 gene are one of the most common genetic risk factors associated with Parkinson’s disease (PD). However, it’s important to note that not all people with GBA1 mutations will necessarily develop PD. Furthermore, if they do, the onset may occur at different ages and with different clinical presentations. This variability highlights the critical need to identify additional factors, both environmental and genetic, that may influence the likelihood of developing PD in individuals with GBA1 mutations.

Individuals with GBA1-related PD often have a higher prevalence of non-motor symptoms, such as a reduced sense of smell and constipation, which typically precede the onset of motor symptoms. The characteristic tremors, rigidity, slowness of movement, and freezing in PD have been attributed to the loss of certain brain cells called dopaminergic neurons, along with the accumulation of a protein called α-synuclein in the brain. A hypothesis emerged in 2003 that the initial pathology of α-synuclein may originate in the gastrointestinal tract before progressing to the brain. Specifically, people with PD often have alterations in their gut microbiota, resulting in changes in the maintenance of the intestinal lining, inflammation, and the body’s ability to defend itself against invading pathogens.

The research laboratory of Christin Weissleder, PhD is investigating how GBA1 mutations might interact with microbial molecules to promote inflammation and α-synuclein accumulation using various cell culture systems. Read more.

Watch the Hot Topics presentation on this subject from WPC 2023.