The team at Columbia University Irving Medical Center said: “Many researchers believe that the neurodegenerative disorder gets started in the gut.

“Research now suggests that an autoimmune reaction may be driving those early events.”

Parkinson’s disease symptoms, such as uncontrollable tremors, result from the loss of neurons in the brain that control movements.

David Sulzer, PhD, explained the hypothesis that Parkinson’s first begins in the gut, years before the first neurological signs appear.

Dr Sulzer said: “If this is the beginning of Parkinson’s in many people, we could potentially identify who has the disease before it ever reaches the brain and hopefully stop it in its tracks.”

The research paper pointed out that “most Parkinson’s patients experience constipation years before brain symptoms emerge”.

To pursue this line of enquiry, Dr Sulzer teamed up with neuroimmunologist Dritan Agalliu, PhD.

They found that an autoimmune reaction seemingly leads to what appears to be early stages of Parkinson’s.

Such a conclusion prompts the idea that interruption of an immune response in the gut could potentially stop Parkinson’s from progressing.

Dr Sulzer added: “Our ultimate goal is to develop a model of Parkinson’s disease in mice that recreates the human disease process, which doesn’t exist right now.

“That will be critical in answering questions about the disease that we can’t explore in people and eventually developing better therapies.”

Parkinson’s disease

The NHS describes the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease as “mild” in its earliest stages.

The health body adds: “There are many different symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.

“But the order in which these develop and their severity is different for each individual.”

The main symptoms include:

  • Tremor
  • Slowness of movement
  • Muscle stiffness.
  • Additional symptoms can include:
  • Balance problems
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Nerve pain
  • Problems peeing
  • Constipation
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Drooling
  • Insomnia.

The new findings were published in the journal Neuron on August 18, 2023.

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