Study examines role of gut bacteria in neurodegenerative diseases

By Ryan Maass

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Oct. 6 (UPI) -- Researchers from the University of Louisville say their latest study confirms gut bacteria play a role in the development of neurodegenerative diseases.

Neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease, amyotropic lateral sclerosis, and Alzheimer's disease are characterized by misfolded proteins and inflammation of the brain. Scientists say they are unsure about the causes of 90 percent of cases recorded.


In the University of Louisville study, published in Scientific Reports, researchers discovered the development of these ailments may stem from the proteins produced by gut bacteria. Researchers found that exposure to these proteins, which are structurally similar to brain proteins, result in an increase in the clumping of alpha-synuclein.

Bacterial strains of E. coli were tested on two groups of rats. The control group was administered an identical bacteria incapable of creating the amyloid protein. The other group showed enhanced cerebral inflammation.

"These new studies in two different animals show that proteins made by bacteria harbored in the gut may be an initiating factor in the disease process of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and ALS," study author Robert P. Friedland explained in a press release. "This is important because most cases of these diseases are not caused by genes, and the gut is our most important environmental exposure. In addition, we have many potential therapeutic options to influence the bacterial populations in the nose, mouth and gut."


The study was part of Friedland's ongoing research on the relationship between gut bacteria and age-related brain disorders. The research was supported by the Michael J Fox Foundation.

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