Does Parkinson’s disease start in the gut?
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is pathologically characterized by the presence of intraneuronal inclusions, termed Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites, whose main component is alpha-synuclein. Based on the topographic distribution of Lewy bodies and neurites established after autopsy from PD patients, Braak and coworkers hypothesized that PD pathology may start in the gastrointestinal tract then spread through the vagus nerve to the brain. This hypothesis has been reinforced by the discovery that alpha-synuclein may be capable of spreading transcellularly, thereby providing a mechanistic basis for Braak’s hypothesis. This ‘gut to brain’ scenario has ignited heated debates within the movement disorders community and prompted a large number of studies in both humans and animals. Here, we review the arguments for and against the gut as the origin of PD. We conclude that the human autopsy evidence does not support the hypothesis and that it is too early to draw any definitive conclusions. We discuss how this issue might be further addressed in future research.
Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00401-017-1777-8
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