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Protein linked to Parkinson’s travels from gut to brain

Study in mice traces path of alpha-synuclein

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12:30pm, November 16, 2016
mouse nerve cells

SEE-THROUGH VIEW  Using a method that rendered tissue translucent, researchers were able to see alpha-synuclein clumps (green) in the gut of a mouse intermingled with nerve cells (red) and astrocytes (white). Cell nuclei are blue.

SAN DIEGO — Over the course of months, clumps of a protein implicated in Parkinson’s disease can travel from the gut into the brains of mice, scientists have found.

The results, reported November 14 at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, suggest that in some cases, Parkinson’s may get its start in the gut. That’s an intriguing concept, says neuroscientist John Cryan of the University College Cork in Ireland. The new study “shows how important gut health can be for brain health and behavior.”

Collin Challis of Caltech and colleagues injected clumps of synthetic alpha-synuclein, a protein known to accumulate in the brains of people with Parkinson’s, into mice’s stomachs and intestines. The researchers then tracked alpha-synuclein with a technique called CLARITY, which makes parts of the mice’s bodies transparent. 

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