General, Research, Technology

Scientists have identified Parkinson's disease in the intestines and heart

Parkinson's disease traditionally understood as neurodegenerativea disease that manifests itself only in the brain. While this is largely the case, there is growing evidence that the disorder is actually not one but two diseases, with one of them, surprisingly, starting in the gut and even the heart. Doctors in Denmark examined 37 images of the brain and found that in some people with Parkinson's disease, damage to the nervous system begins in the intestinal neurons and then spreads to the brain.

The disease was detected not only in the brain, but also in other organs.


  • 1 Why does Parkinson's disease occur?
  • 2 How to distinguish Parkinson's disease?
  • 3 Parkinson's disease in the intestine
  • 4 How can Parkinson's disease be treated?

Why does Parkinson's disease occur?

Parkinson's disease develops due to the accumulation of protein in the bodyalpha-synuclein: it curls up and forms toxic tangles inside neurons - Lewy bodies. The latter then infect neurons in the brain. However, where exactly this protein comes from, scientists still do not know exactly.

As a result of a new study, Danish doctors concluded that while some people suffer from Parkinson's disease neurons in the brain, others are the first to hit intestines and heart.

Until now, many people considered Parkinson's diseaserelatively homogeneous and defined it on the basis of classic movement disorders, says neuroscientist Per Borghammer from Aarhus University in Denmark.

However, there is a strong difference in patients' symptomsforced doctors to reconsider the previously adopted approach to Parkinson's disease. Although the new study is small and includes only 37 people with Parkinson's disease and people at risk between the ages of 50 and 85, the researchers say the sample is large enough to show very significant differences between the two different types of the disease.

According to this theory, the first accumulations of alpha-synuclein protein appear in the intestine, then penetrate into the vagus nerve, and along it slowly moves towards the brain, affecting the heart.

In the first case (left), the disease forms inintestine (1), then goes to the heart (2) and enters the brain through the vagus nerve. In the second case (on the right), the disease forms in the brain (1) and only then affects the intestines and heart

How to distinguish Parkinson's disease?

The study used the disorderREM sleep as a way to determine who may be at risk of developing Parkinson's disease later, suggesting that this may be a sign of impending neurodegeneration. Brain scans and other assessments of body health and nerve function produced profiles that clearly identified two different biological signals.

Patients who have not had sleep disturbancesneurons in the intestines and heart were in good condition, but they were also affected in the brain. On the contrary, people with sleep disorders showed good indices for dopamine (a substance that is produced by the brain), while their intestinal neurons were damaged.

This means that in fact there is two variants of the disease, each of which starts in different parts of the body and then progresses differently.

Previous experiments have shown that there are moreone type of Parkinson's disease, but this was not clearly demonstrated until the present study, which was specifically conducted to clarify this issue, says Borghammer.

Lewy bodies affect neurons. Computer model

Parkinson's disease in the intestine

In fact, the intestines were first associated withParkinson's disease nearly two centuries ago. Today, constipation is recognized as one of the most common symptoms of this condition, but it wasn't until 2003, after careful study, that scientists suggested that Parkinson's disease arises from the gut.

Since then, further research has yielded mixed results. In one study involving more than 600 people the researchers did not find a single case of Parkinson's "from the gut". They all have been found to originate from the brain.

But this does not mean that the intestinal nervous systemit is not involved in any way. The gastrointestinal tract is enormous, and some researchers argue that it will take many hundreds of microscopic slides to rule out localized bowel pathology "with any degree of certainty".

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How can Parkinson's disease be treated?

Scientists believe that a better understanding of the original source of the disease will help not only better fight it, but also diagnose it early.

The next step is to study whether Parkinson's disease, primarily the body, can be treated by treating the intestines or other ways that affect the microbiome, the scientists say.

The study authors argue that regardless ofof how people might get Parkinson's disease, they will eventually develop severe damage to the sympathetic nervous system. This means that both options end up looking very similar - whether it is damage to neurons in the brain or in the intestinal nervous system.

Work on a cure for Parkinson's disease is ongoing. Scientists are trying everything, including cough medicines, which are effective in some cases.

If corporal origin of Parkinson's diseasedoes exist, then the medical profession could stop the disease before it spreads to the brain. Once this disease enters the head, it is much more difficult to deal with it.