Scientists still do not know why some people develop Parkinson's disease. Now researchers from Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital have taken an important step towards a better understanding of the disease. Their research indicates that Parkinson's disease may begin in the gastrointestinal tract and spread through the vagus nerve to the brain.
"We have conducted a registry study of almost 15,000 patients who have had the vagus nerve in their stomach severed. Between approximately 1970-1995 this procedure was a very common method of ulcer treatment. If it really is correct that Parkinson's starts in the gut and spreads through the vagus nerve, then these vagotomy patients should naturally be protected against developing Parkinson's disease," explains postdoc at Aarhus University Elisabeth Svensson on the hypothesis behind the study.
"Our study shows that patients who have had the the entire vagus nerve severed were protected against Parkinson's disease. Their risk was halved after 20 years. However, patients who had only had a small part of the vagus nerve severed where not protected. This also fits the hypothesis that the disease process is strongly dependent on a fully or partially intact vagus nerve to be able to reach and affect the brain," she says.
The research was recently published in the journal “Annals of Neurology”.
Source: Aarhaus University