AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 4, 2017

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Study Demonstrates Role of Gut Bacteria in Neurodegenerative Diseases

Research of UofL funded by The Michael J. Fox Foundation shows proteins produced by gut bacteria may cause misfolding of brain proteins and cerebral inflammation

Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) are all characterized by clumped, misfolded proteins and inflammation int he brain. In more than 90 percent of cases, physicians and scientists do not know what causes these processes to occur. Robert P. Fiedland, MD, the Mason C. and Mary D. Rudd Endowed Chair and Professor of Neurology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, and a team of researchers have discovered that these processes may be triggered by proteins made by our gut bacteria (the micobiota). Their research has revealed that exposure to bacterial proteins called amyloid that have structural similarity to brain proteins leads to an increase in clumping of the protein alpha-synuclein in the brain. Aggregates, or clumps, of misfolded alpha-synclein and related amyloid proteins are seen in the brains of patients with the neurodegenerative disease AD, PD and ALS. 

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