Connecting Synaptic Gene Polymorphisms to Parkinson’s Disease


Neurodegenerative disorders represent a significant and growing concern in the realm of public health, particularly as global populations age. Among these, Parkinson’s disease (PD) stands out due to its increasing prevalence and profound impact on individuals. Characterized by the progressive degeneration of motor functions, PD is not just a health challenge but also poses substantial socio-economic burdens. While the etiology of Parkinson’s disease is far from simple, current research efforts elucidating its causes, mechanisms, and potential treatments illustrate the critical nature of this neurodegenerative disorder in today’s healthcare landscape.

In the clinic, Parkinson’s disease is often diagnosed as either sporadic or familial. Familial PD has a clear genetic basis, typically passed down through families, while sporadic PD, comprising about 90% of cases, occurs in individuals without a known family history of the disease. The exact cause of sporadic PD is not fully understood but is believed to be due to a combination of genetic predispositions and environmental factors. In contrast, the factors involved in familial PD are more thoroughly understood, offering insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying PD pathogenesis.

Polymorphisms and Parkinson’s Disease Susceptibility

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Could Your Appendix Predispose You to Parkinson’s Disease?

Image of span of vagal nerve, humans.
The vagal nerve could serve as conduit for transit of alpha-synuclein from appendix to brain.

Since about 2000 we’ve learned a lot about the bacteria in our guts. We’ve learned that the right bacterial communities in our gastrointestinal system can make us feel better, think better and even help avoid obesity (1). My colleague Isobel has previously blogged about how certain gut bacteria can improve immunotherapy outcomes.

Conversely, the wrong bacteria in our guts can have negative consequences on health and cognition.

Along the way we’ve learned that gut bacterial flora can be influenced by what we eat, certain medications like antibiotics, and even stressful events. We now know that fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha and that horrible-smelling stuff (kimchi) that another colleague eats are happy food for the good gut bacteria.

And you might guess that fried foods, saturated fats and certain carbohydrates can support the growth of gut bacteria that are doing us no favors when present in large quantities in our gastrointestinal system. Continue reading “Could Your Appendix Predispose You to Parkinson’s Disease?”