SUMMARY: This study looked at whether or not gut bacteria could cause symptoms of Parkinson’s. A protein called α-Syn collects and clumps together in the brain, causing the symptoms and affecting the amount of dopamine that is released. There are 8 sections in the results, each is a different aspect of the research. Scientists found that mice with no gut bacteria (germ-free mice), when infected with gut bacteria from a Parkinson’s patient, started exhibiting symptoms. Also, the vagus nerve seemed to be the way these α-Syn proteins were making their way up to the brain. This study still needs to be replicated by other researchers but it gives an interesting insight on a possible cause of Parkinson’s.
LESSON COMMENTS: Often times, students learn about the body systems separately; this article allows them to see how two systems are connected in a way that is still being explored by scientists. They will need a solid understanding of neurons, neurotransmitters, and brain function. If dissections of mice/rats are done in class, students can also find the vagus nerve (next to the internal carotid) and see if they can follow its path to the digestive system. Discussions about gut microbiome can start with this article and students can be encouraged to look up other studies exploring the effect of microbiome on everyday body functions as well as diseases.
Sampson, T. R., Debelius, J. W., Thron, T., Janssen, S., Shastri, G. G., Ilhan, Z. E., Challis, C., Schretter, C. E., Rocha, S., Gradinaru, V., Chesselet, M. F., Keshavarzian, A., Shannon, K. M., Krajmalnik-Brown, R., Wittung-Stafshede, P., Knight, R., … Mazmanian, S. K. (2016). Gut Microbiota Regulate Motor Deficits and Neuroinflammation in a Model of Parkinson’s Disease. Cell, 167(6), 1469-1480.e12.