No appendix? Your risk of Parkinson’s is reduced by more than 20%

Maricruz Casares
Noviembre 3, 2018

"One of the things that we don't want to get across to people is that [they] should be having preventative appendectomies or that just because you have an appendix, you're going to get Parkinson's disease", Labrie said.

Scientists led by the Van Andel Research Institute in MI scoured two large patient registries, encompassing data from 1.7 million people, and made an astounding discovery: People who have their appendixes removed early in life reduce their risk of developing Parkinson's disease by 19% to 25%. For those living in rural areas it was even more advantageous, as there was a 25-percent reduction in disease risk, the study reveals.

"There's potential for [gastrointestinal]-tract based therapies that could block the formation and spread of alpha-synuclein clumps as future, early, and preventative treatments for Parkinson's disease", professor Viviane Labrie from the Center for Neurodegenerative Science at the Van Andel Research Institute in MI said in a press teleconference.

Claire Bale, from Parkinson's United Kingdom in a statement said, "This research is really important because it gives us some of the most compelling evidence yet that Parkinson's may begin outside the brain, which is a revolutionary new idea that is emerging in the scientific world".

This slow death of brain cells appears to be related to the way alpha-synuclein folds and clumps in some people, which to some degree is blamed on mutations in the gene responsible for the protein's construction. It is possible for alpha-synuclein to travel from the gastrointestinal tract via the vagus nerve and reach the brain. When they looked at the case histories of 849 people with Parkinson's, they determined that those who had the organ removed developed Parkinson's 3.6 years later on average than those who still had the little sack.

McConway, who was not involved in the research, added that "several previous studies have looked for relationships between appendix removal and various other diseases, including heart disease as well as various diseases of the gut".

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"Some scientists have called the intestine the second brain, because of the number of neurons that are present in there", said co-author Patrik Brundin, director of the Centre for Neurodegenerative Science at Van Andel Research Institute.

This isn't the first time we've seen research linking Parkinson's disease to our guts.

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Of the 1.6 million covered patients, more than 550,000 had undergone an appendectomy.

"We're not advocating appendectomy as a form of protection against Parkinson's disease", the researcher, Dr. Viviane Labrie, said.

First, the researchers analyzed Sweden's huge national health database, examining medical records of almost 1.7 million people tracked since 1964. The abnormal folding of these proteins is known to cause the onset and progression of Parkinson's. "Parkinson's is relatively rare - less than 1 percent of the population - so there has to be some other mechanism or confluence of events that allows the appendix to affect Parkinson's risk". The find also sheds new light a complex disease that's puzzled researchers for decades and could give doctors insights into how to help prevent the disease in people at higher risk.

That's a crucial finding because it means merely harboring the protein in the gut isn't enough to trigger Parkinson's, Labrie said.

FLORIDA, Nov 1 ― Parkinson's disease has always been considered a disease of the brain, but research out yesterday found it may start in the gut ― specifically in the appendix, a tiny organ near the large intestine. The protein clogs destroy neurons, and it leads to the hallmark tremors and muscular difficulties that characterize Parkinson's.

More than half a million of patients in the registry had received appendectomies due to suspected inflammation or infection, while around 2,200 of the 1.7 million patients had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

The research was published in the Science Translational Medicine journal. "But understanding how the condition starts and progresses is the first step to stopping it".

But the hunt for the origins of Parkinson's still can not explain why the disease develops in some people but not others.

There are still many questions about the process to answer.

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