Scientists at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago have discovered that the bowel may be more closely related to the brain than any of us would have cared to think. Apparently, exceptionally large quantities of alpha-synuclein can be found in the lower bowels of people in the early stages of Parkinson’s. It has also been detected, at higher than normal levels, in the bowels of people who later went on to develop Parkinson’s. The suggestion is that it may be possible to predict the onset of Parkinson’s symptoms by means of a colonic biopsy.
This appears to be related to the link between the bowel and Parkinson’s noted here.
The article which first drew my attention to the Chicago research was on the Canadian Television Web site. I do feel inclined to take issue with the statement that “Parkinson’s is an ultimately fatal condition”; I’ve always been told (by people who I feel more inclined to trust than I do television journalists) that, “You don’t die of Parkinson’s, you die with it”. But that is by the by.
The news is also reported on the Website Medical News Today, which has a more in-depth report, including quotations from the authors.
The research is published in the journal Movement Disorders; you can read the two abstracts here (early Parkinson’s – 2011 paper) and here (pre-onset Parkinson’s – 2012 paper). The last word should probably go to the researchers, who emphasise that this research is, as yet, untested:
Additional study is required to determine whether colonic mucosal biopsy may be a biomarker of premotor PD.
– Shannon, K. M., Keshavarzian, A., Dodiya, H. B., Jakate, S. and Kordower, J. H. (2012), Is alpha-synuclein in the colon a biomarker for premotor Parkinson’s Disease? Evidence from 3 cases. Mov. Disord.. doi: 10.1002/mds.25020