New research has discovered that a common bacteria known as bacillus subtilis could potentially slow – and even reverse – the build-up of a protein associated with Parkinson’s.
The probiotic prevents the formation of toxic clumps that starve the brain of dopamine, a key chemical that coordinates movement, meaning that the new findings could pave the way for future studies that gauge how supplements such as probiotics impact the condition.
Researchers at the Universities of Edinburgh and Dundee used roundworms altered to produce the human version of alpha-synuclein that forms clumps, which they then fed with different types of over-the-counter probiotics to see if bacteria in them could affect the formation of toxic clumps.
In the experiment, the bacillus subtilis improved the movement symptoms in the roundworms, and was also able to prevent the formation of toxic alpha-synuclein clumps by producing chemicals that change how enzymes in cells process specific fats called sphingolipids.
The results, which were published in Cell Reports and funded by Parkinson’s UK, are the latest in a number of recent studies which have found a link between brain function and the thousands of different kinds of bacteria living in the digestive system, known as the gut microbiome.
They provide an “opportunity to investigate how changing the bacteria that make up our gut microbiome affects Parkinson’s” added Dr Beckie Port, who explained that 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.”
Last September the UK government announced an investment of over £130 million for new tech to tackle debilitating illnesses such as Parkinson’s, meaning thousands of NHS patients could receive faster diagnosis and better treatment for life-changing such diseases.