Chronic neurodegenerative Parkinson’s disease affects a growing number of people. However, scientists still do not know why some people develop the disease of Parkinson . Now researchers from Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital have taken an important step towards a better understanding of the disease.

Parkinson’s disease can start in the gastrointestinal tract

New research indicates that Parkinson’s disease can start in the gastrointestinal tract and spread through the vagus nerve to the brain.

“We have carried out a registered study of almost 15,000 patients who have cut the vagus nerve in their stomach. Between approximately 1970-1995 this procedure was a very common method of ulcer treatment. If it is really correct that Parkinson’s disease starts in the intestine and spreads through the vagus nerve, then these patients who have undergone vagotomy should naturally be protected against the development of Parkinson’s disease ”, explains Elisabeth Svensson postdoctoral fellow. at Aarhus University on the hypothesis behind the study.

A hypothesis that turned out to be correct

“Our study shows that patients who had their entire vagus nerve severed were protected against Parkinson’s disease. Your risk was cut in half after 20 years. However, patients who had only had a small part of the vagus nerve cut were not protected. This also fits the hypothesis that the disease process relies heavily on a fully or partially intact vagus nerve to be able to reach and affect the brain, ”she says.

The research project has just been published in the internationally recognized Annals of Neurology.

The first clinical examination

Research has presented strong evidence that Parkinson’s disease starts in the gastrointestinal tract and spreads through the vagus nerve to the brain. Many patients have also suffered from gastrointestinal symptoms prior to the diagnosis of Parkinson’s .

“Patients with Parkinson’s disease often suffer from constipation many years before being diagnosed, and that can be an early marker of the relationship between neurological and gastroenterological pathology related to the vagus nerve,” says Elisabeth Svensson.

Previous hypotheses about the relationship between Parkinson’s and the vagus nerve have led to animal studies and cell studies in the field. However, the current study is the first and largest epidemiological study in humans.

The research project is an important piece of the puzzle regarding the causes of the disease. In the future, researchers hope to use the new knowledge to identify risk factors for Parkinson’s disease and thus prevent the disease.

“Now that we have found an association between the vagus nerve and the development of Parkinson’s disease, it is important to carry out research on the factors that can trigger this neurological degeneration, so that we can prevent the development of the disease. To be able to do this will naturally be a breakthrough, “says Elisabeth Svensson.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses. He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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