Parkinson’s Microbiome Research Review
Updated: Jun 30, 2022
I apologize for my long delay in updating you on the science of the microbiome in Parkinson's. The end of 2020 was very busy and both John and I ended up with Covid in December. John had more trouble with the infection than I did and is still requiring more rest and time to fully recover. This led me to look back at my Portugal presentation which I recently uploaded to the blog. This presentation explains the dynamics of infection and the long term effects of lingering infections in the immune system. This seems to be what is also occurring with people who have Long Covid so it is not surprising that John would have these lingering effects.
In 2021 there were 265 newly published peer reviewed papers on Parkinson's and the microbiome. Increasingly researchers are beginning to understand the profound connection between the gut and the brain and the connection to disease. The diagram below is from a review paper from University of Florida researchers. You can read their summary of the current state of the research and promising avenues of treatment here. One key area of research that is especially near and dear to my heart is the use of probiotics to address GI issues and potentially as an early intervention.
"Recent clinical trials suggest that probiotics can be useful in ameliorating GI issues such as constipation in patients with PD (Cassani et al., 2011; Barichella et al., 2016; Tan et al., 2021), and this is a growing area of research. One recent randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial of 120 participants with PD and Rome-III-confirmed constipation was conducted to assess the potential use of probiotics to improve constipation (Barichella et al., 2016)."
I believe that one day in the not too distant future we will be able to test the microbiome and identify potential risk of Parkinson's in such a way that we could turn people back from getting the disease. Research The BioCollective has worked on for the past six years has culminated in biomarker discovery with Ardigen, Inc, a Polish genomics and machine learning company. We are currently working on a publication of our results and have presented the data on several online conference forums.
Environmental toxins continue to come up regularly in the research as well. We have known for some time that there are increased risks of Parkinson's related to heavy metals like iron, zinc and manganese as well as many commonly used herbicides and pesticides. This paper from researchers in Germany and Columbia discusses a systems toxicology approach connecting the dots through the microbiome and potential lactic acid bacteria that can help protect from the toxicity of the metals by altering and/or removing them.
I've talked about my systems thinking background before on this blog. I've long said that Parkinson's is a complex systemic issue and must be addressed from a systems perspective. I am so pleased to see more research coming from the systems biology and toxicology perspective. There is no single cause for Parkinson's. It is the complex assault of many factors on the human system: environmental pollutants, poor diet and loss of micronutrients, stress and infection. In order to improve the outcomes in Parkinson's we must begin to think of ourselves as an ecosystem. The care of an ecosystem requires great thought and attention.
In 2022, as John and I think about how to continuing making strides to better quality of life we have committed to move to a farm where we will care for the land and grow much of our own food. We will know exactly what we are getting because we are going to be the caretakers. As we learn more about food and farming we will be sharing our journey with you. And once we are up and running, of course, our PD connections are welcome to visit and enjoy the peace and quiet of the land outside the city.