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Parkinson's Disease

The intestinal microbiota influences neurodevelopment, modulates behavior, and contributes to various neurological disorders. However, a functional link between gut bacteria and neurodegenerative diseases remains unexplored. Synucleinopathies are characterized by aggregation of the protein α-synuclein (αSyn), often resulting in motor dysfunction, as exemplified by Parkinson's disease (PD). Using mice that overexpress αSyn, we report herein that the microbiota is required for motor deficits, microglia activation, and αSyn pathology. Antibiotic treatment ameliorates, while microbial colonization promotes, pathophysiology in adult animals, suggesting disease arises from postnatal signaling between the gut and the brain. Indeed, oral administration of the microbial metabolites, short-chain fatty acids, to germ-free mice promotes neuroinflammation and motor symptoms. Remarkably, colonization of αSyn-overexpressing mice with microbiota from PD patients enhances physical impairments compared to microbiota transplants from healthy human donors. These findings reveal that gut bacteria potentiate numerous Parkinsonian-like features in a mouse model, and suggest that alterations in the human microbiome represent a novel risk factor for PD.

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Why Science Says to Listen to your Gut

Watch Sarkis' TEDMED 2018 Talk to learn how the gut-brain pathway may lead us to discover causes behind, and even treatments for, life-altering conditions like Autism Spectrum Disorder and Parkinson's Disease. By understanding communication between the gut and the brain, we may be able to change the course of neurological disease for generations.

NOVA Wonders What's Living in You?

Whether they make you fat, fart, or freak out, microbes play a central role in your life. Right beneath your nose—on your face, in your gut, and everywhere in between—trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi are so abundant in your body, they outnumber your human cells. But these aren't just nasty hitch-hikers. Many are crucial to your survival.

Season 45 Episode 102 | 53m 40s