The study demonstrating that a gut infection can lead to a pathology; resembling Parkinson’s disease (PD) in a mouse model lacking a gene linking to the human disease. The study suggesting that Parkinson’s disease has a major immune component; providing new avenues for therapeutic strategies.
As Parkinson’s disease is causing by the progressive death of a subset of neurons in the brain; called dopaminergic neurons. This loss of neurons is responsible for the typical motor symptoms observing in Parkinson’s disease patients; including tremors and rigidity. What causes the death of the dopaminergic neurons is still unknown.
A relatively conservative projected doubling of the number of patients over the next 30 years would yield more than 12 million patients worldwide by about 2050. Patients with these mutations develop PD at a much earlier age.
Pathology of Parkinson’s disease
But as per the study number of Parkinson’s disease patients in the world more than doubling between 1990 and 2016; from 2.5 million to 6.1 million. About 10% of cases of Parkinson’s disease are due to mutations in genes coding for proteins such as PINK1 and Parkin; which have been linking to mitochondria.
The Parkinson’s-like symptoms could be temporarily reversed by the administration of L-DOPA, a drug used to treat Parkinson’s patients. Desjardins and Diana Matheoud, an immunologist, point out that in normal mice, the immune system responded properly to the gut infection.
However, in mouse models, the same mutations do not generate disease symptoms, leading many researchers to conclude that mice may not be suitable for the study of disease. The study explaining this disparity; these animals are normally kept in germ-free facilities, conditions not representative of those encountered by human beings who are constantly exposed to infectious microorganisms.
But these results strongly suggesting that some forms of PD are an autoimmune disease; likely to start in the gut several years before patients notice any motor symptoms; highlighting the fact that a window of time exists for preventive treatment.