Research linking Parkinson’s with the gut’s appendix receives top award

May 13, 2015

The journal Movement Disorders has recognized a team led by Dr. John Woulfe with its inaugural Research Paper of the Year Award for a study that makes an intriguing connection between Parkinson’s disease and the appendix. The paper builds on a hypothesis that suggests that Parkinson’s starts in nerve cells in the gut after an environmental trigger causes “clumping” of a protein called alpha-synuclein. It is suggested that these clumps travel from one nerve to the next until they reach the brain. Dr. Woulfe’s team was interested in where in the gut this process might begin, reasoning that areas with very high levels of the protein would be attractive candidates. To their surprise, using tissue samples from surgical patients at The Ottawa Hospital, they found that alpha-synuclein is present in high levels in nerve fibers in the appendix. This is particularly interesting because the appendix is an immune organ and immune/inflammatory mechanisms (including viruses) have been implicated in the development of Parkinson’s. The award will be presented at the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society’s annual meeting in June 2015. Read the paper here.

Co-authors:Madison T. Gray, David G. Munoz, Douglas A. Gray, Michael G. Schlossmacher.

Funders: Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Parkinson Research Consortium, Parkinson's Society Canada, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, Bhargava Research Chair in Neurodegeneration, Canada Research Chair in Parkinson's Disease and Translational Neuroscience, Canada Foundation for Innovation.

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