Researchers study possible associations between overproduced alpha-synuclein and the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
The state of an individual’s gastrointestinal tract can be indicative of his or her overall health. A variety of health issues can arise with an unhealthy gastrointestinal tract. Very important to the function of the gastrointestinal tract is the enteric nervous system (ENS). The enteric nervous system makes up part of what is known as the ‘gut-brain axis’ – a connection between the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system. As its name suggests, the ENS also contains neurons, at numbers comparable to those found within the spinal cord. Recent research has suggested that Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the nervous system, characterized by tremors, stiffness, and slowing of movement, may actually begin in the gut.
A protein called alpha-synuclein (AS), which has been previously connected with Parkinson’s disease, is also involved in immune responses that occur within the gastrointestinal tract. AS is increased in response to a viral infection, in an effort to protect cells against the virus.
Research has found that following infection, AS can build up to form ‘neurotoxic aggregates’, in the ENS. These aggregates then travel to the CNS, which could lead to nerve damage, and ultimately may be involved in the development of Parkinson’s disease.
In light of these findings, researchers are planning to block this accumulation of AS and determine whether this could slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. The researchers are currently conducting a clinical trial with ENT-01 (Enterin Inc.), a drug that blocks the formation of AS these neurotoxic aggregates and restores the regular function of the ENS.
Written by Laura Laroche, HBASc, Medical Writer
Keyword: slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease
Barbut, Denise, Stolzenberg, Ethan, Zasloff, Michael. “Gastrointestinal Immunity and Alpha-Syncuclein’. IOS Press. 30 Oct. 2019. Online.
Parkinson’s Disease. 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/parkinsons-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20376055, assessed 14 Nov. 2019.
Targeting alpha-synuclein in the gut may slow down Parkinson’s disease. 2019, https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-11/ip-tai111319.php, assessed 14 Nov. 2019.
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