Researchers have developed a new method to test the stool samples of people with early signs of Parkinson’s.
An early indicator of a form of Parkinson’s referred to as ‘body-first Parkinson’s disease’ is the so-called isolated REM-sleep behaviour disorder (iBRD). This causes movements during sleep that can be dangerous to both the person affected and others.
Now researchers in Germany have designed a test that has detected a greater concentration of a type of protein in stool samples of people who suffer from the sleep condition.
The test found higher levels of α-synuclein aggregates, which are formed in the neurons in the intestine.
Professor Erdem Gültekin Tamgüney, from Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, said: “We are the first to prove the presence of α-synuclein aggregates in stool samples. Our results show a significantly higher level of α-synuclein aggregates in iRBD patients compared with healthy individuals or patients with Parkinson’s.
“These findings could lead to a non-invasive diagnostic tool for prodromal synucleinopathies – including Parkinson’s – which could in turn enable therapies to be initiated at an early stage before symptoms occur.”
There are two types of Parkinson’s disease and most – 70% of cases – originate in the central nervous system. However, body-first Parkinson’s originates in the nervous system of the intestine, with the characteristic deposits of aggregates of the body’s own α-synuclein protein formed in the neurons in the intestine. The aggregates then spread to the central nervous system then further through the body.
The ‘gut-brain axis’ refers to the role of the gastrointestinal tract on the brain. Environmental factors could play a role in the gastrointestinal tract and it may be possible that things like chemicals, bacteria or viruses could trigger the formation of α-synuclein aggregates.