Gut health identified in combating Parkinson’s disease

Australian researchers hope to slow or stop the progression of Parkinson’s disease by targeting the gut rather than the brain.

A Queensland University of Technology team has been awarded $4 million for the four-year trial that will look at combating the illness by altering gut health.

Parkinson’s disease is the fastest-growing neurological disorder in the world, with cases in Australia expected to triple by 2050.

No effective treatment is available to stop Parkinson’s disease, which affects more than 150,000 Australians.

The QUT team based at Brisbane’s Translational Research Institute hope to change that with a new approach that looks at the gut ecosystem.

Associate Professor Richard Gordon said studies have shown a difference in gut health between Parkinson’s patients and healthy people.

Parkinson’s patients could experience persistent immune system inflammation believed to be linked to a gut microbe imbalance, he said.

The inflammation over time can damage nerve cells or neurons that produce an important chemical messenger in the brain, called dopamine.

The QUT team hope to engineer microbes and test new drugs that change the gut ecosystem thanks to the funding provided by the US Department of Defense.

‚ÄúEmerging evidence suggests that many of the known features of Parkinson‚Äôs, such as persistent inflammation and activation of the immune system, are closely linked to an imbalance of microbes in the gut,‚ÄĚ Dr Gordon said.

“Rather than taking the current approach of blocking immune pathways that are activated, our research will explore the potential of restoring gut health, resolving immune activation via the gut to prevent vulnerable neurons from damage.

‚ÄúIf our approach is successful, it will open new avenues for potentially slowing or stopping Parkinson‚Äôs disease and improving the quality of life for millions living with this condition.‚ÄĚ

Recruitment for the study is set to begin in August and will be open to both people with the disease and healthy volunteers.

The study will involve providing a routine blood sample at a clinical facility and a take-home microbiome kit that participants can mail back to the research team.

They will collaborate with neurologists from the Royal Brisbane Hospital and Princess Alexandra Hospital and partner with researchers at the University of Georgia in the United States.

 

Fraser Barton
(Australian Associated Press)

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