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AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 1, 2017

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Pre-clinical Study Suggests Parkinson’s Could Start in Gut Endocrine Cells

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Protein linked to Parkinson’s could spread from gut to nervous system 

Recent research on Parkinson’s disease has focused on the gut-brain connection, examining patients’ gut bacteria, and even how severing the vagus nerve connecting the stomach and brain might protect some people from the debilitating disease. But scientists understand little about what’s happening in the gut – the ingestion of environmental toxins or germs, perhaps – that leads to brain damage and the hallmarks of Parkinson’s such as tremors, stiffness and trouble walking. Duke University researchers have identified a potential new mechanism in both mice and human endocrine cells that populate the small intestines. Inside these cells is a protein called alpha-synuclein, which is known to go awry and lead to damaging clumps in the brains of Parkinson’s patients, as well as those with Alzheimer’s disease.

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