A new study published in the journal Cell Reports has found that a probiotic bacterium could help prevent or even reverse Parkinson’s disease.
Researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and Dundee found that the probiotic bacterium could prevent and reverse toxic protein buildup in those who have Parkinson’s.
The characteristic feature of Parkinson’s disease is misfolded alpha-synuclein proteins in the brain. Experts believe that these proteins cause gradual and progressive loss of brain cells. However, it is unclear how they do so and the underlying mechanisms causing the neurological condition remain idiopathic.
There is no cure for Parkinson’s and the current treatments mainly focus on alleviating the signs and symptoms of the condition.
The recent study looked at a possible link between the gut bacteria and Parkinson’s.
Senior study author Dr. Maria Doitsidou from the University of Edinburgh and her team used a roundworm model that develops clumps of alpha-synuclein at day 1 of their adulthood. The worms were fed a diet containing a probiotic called “Bacillus subtilis PXN21.”
The researchers found “a nearly complete absence of aggregates,” in those worms. Although the worms produced the protein, they did not clump in the same way.
They also found that worms, which had already developed protein aggregates, cleared the clumping of the proteins after switching to the diet containing the probiotic.
The authors wrote, “The maximum number of aggregates reached in animals fed with B. subtilis was far lower than that observed on the [standard] diet, indicating that B. subtilis does not simply delay aggregate formation,” the authors explain in the paper.”
“B. subtilis PXN21 inhibits and reverses [alpha-synuclein] aggregation in a [roundworm] model,” they added.
To understand how the probiotic was able to clear the protein clumping, the researchers use RNA sequencing analysis, which revealed changes in the metabolism of sphingolipid, a fat molecule that is a part of our cell membranes.
The authors wrote, “Previous studies suggest that an imbalance of lipids, including ceramides and sphingolipid intermediates, may contribute to the pathology of [Parkinson’s disease].”
“The results provide an opportunity to investigate how changing the bacteria that make up our gut microbiome affects Parkinson’s,” said Dr. Doitsidou. “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.”