- Probiotic bacillus subtilis prevented the formation of toxic clumps of protein
- Alpha-synuclein blocks production of dopamine, which controls movement
- Campaigners said findings were ‘exciting’ as they highlight link to the gut
A common gut bacteria could slow – and even reverse – the build-up of a protein linked to Parkinson’s, research suggests.
Scientists found bacillus subtilis, a probiotic, blocked the formation of toxic clumps that starve the brain of dopamine in people with the condition.
The chemical allows messages to be sent to and from regions of the brain that co-ordinate movement.
Microorganisms in the gut are believed to play a role in the initiation of Parkinson’s in some cases.
It explains why three quarters of sufferers have gastrointestinal (GI) abnormalities, with many complaining of constipation.
Bacillus subtilis is thought to prevent and clear away the build-up of alpha-synuclein proteins by rebalancing the gut microbiome.
A common bacteria that boosts digestive health can slow – and even reverse – build-up of a protein linked to Parkinson’s disease, research suggests
Researchers from the universities of Edinburgh and Dundee say the ‘exciting’ finding could pave the way for future studies that gauge how supplements impact the incurable condition.
In the brains of people with Parkinson’s, the alpha-synuclein protein misfolds and builds up, forming toxic clumps.
These plaques are associated with the death of nerve cells responsible for producing dopamine.
The loss of these cells causes the motor symptoms associated with the disease, including freezing, tremors and slowness of movement.
In their latest study, the team fed over-the-counter probiotics containing bacillus subtilis to tiny roundworms that had been injected with the human gene for Parkinson’s.
They found bacillus subtilis had a protective effect against the build-up of alpha-synuclein and also cleared some of the already-formed clumps. This improved the movement symptoms in the roundworms.
Lead researcher Dr Maria Doitsidou said: ‘The results provide an opportunity to investigate how changing the bacteria that make up our gut microbiome affects Parkinson’s.
‘The next steps are to confirm these results in mice, followed by fast-tracked clinical trials since the probiotic we tested is already commercially available.’
Dr Beckie Port, research manager at Parkinson’s UK, which funded the study, said: ‘Parkinson’s is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world.
‘Currently there is no treatment that can slow, reverse or protect someone from its progression but by funding projects like this, we’re bringing forward the day when there will be.
‘Changes in the microorganisms in the gut are believed to play a role in the initiation of Parkinson’s in some cases and are linked to certain symptoms, that’s why there is ongoing research into gut health and probiotics.
‘The results from this study are exciting as they show a link between bacteria in the gut and the protein at the heart of Parkinson’s.’
It is the latest in a number of recent studies which have found a link between brain function and the thousands of different kinds of bacteria living in the digestive system, known as the gut microbiome.
Parkinson’s disease affects one in 500 people, and around 145,000 people in the UK live with the condition. In the US that number is nearly a million.