Could the Appendix Play a Role in Parkinson’s Disease

According to a story from ScienceNews, a recent study has revealed an unusual connection between the appendix and Parkinson’s disease. This research found that people who received an appendectomy (surgery to remove the appendix) were less likely to get Parkinson’s. In addition, the study found that even people without the disease had distinctive aggregations of a protein called alpha-synuclein in their appendix. These same aggregations also appear in the brain of Parkinson’s disease patients, and are also known as Lewy bodies.

About Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a type of long term, progressive, degenerative illness that affects the central nervous system. Symptoms tend to develop over a period of years and primarily affect the movement ability and mental state of the patient. The cause of Parkinson’s disease remains a mystery, although there are a number of risk factors that have been identified. These factors include head injuries, pesticide exposure, and certain genetic variants and mutations. About 15 percent of patients have a close relative with the disease, suggesting some genetic connection. Symptoms include slowed movements, poor coordination, trouble walking, shaking, stiffness, abnormal posture, depression, anxiety, inhibited thinking, hallucinations, and dementia. Treatment may involve a number of medications, rehabilitation, and surgical operations. Survival rate varies, but most patients survive around a decade after getting diagnosed. To learn more about Parkinson’s disease, click here.

The Appendix and Parkinson’s Disease

While it is clear that more research will need to be conducted to further elucidate the relationship between this disease and the appendix, the findings suggest that could play a role in the early development of Parkinson’s. This also may help explain the fact that some of the early symptoms of the illness tend to appear in the digestive tract before the brain becomes affected. The researchers found that removal of the appendix reduced the risk of Parkinson’s by 19 percent.

What Does This Mean?

The findings could lead to the development of new therapeutic approaches for Parkinson’s disease. Other studies have suggested that it is possible for the alpha-synuclein use the nervous system to move from the digestive tract to the brain. Intervening in the process, as well as preventing the Lewy bodies from appearing in the first place, could be critical. Read the original study here.

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