AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 3, 2017

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Protein Associated With Parkinson’s Disease Linked to Human Upper GI Tract Infections

Acute and chronic infections in a person’s upper gastrointestinal tract appear to be linked to Parkinson’s disease, say scientists at Georgetown University Medical Center and their collaborators at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other institutions. Their study finds that alpha-Synuclein (?S), the protein implicated in Parkinson’s disease and other forms of neurodegenerative diseases, is released when an infection occurs in the upper GI tract (the esophagus, stomach and duodenum) inducing an immune response as part of the body’s innate immune system. The researchers say that these findings suggest that frequent or chronic upper GI infections could overwhelm the body’s capacity to clear ?S, leading to disease. This largely federally-funded study helps clarify the function of ?S, which is poorly understood, says the study’s senior investigator, Michael Zasloff, MD, PhD, professor of surgery and pediatrics at Georgetown University School of Medicine and scientific director of the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute.

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