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Parkinson's disease protein found in intestinal wall

November 16, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Usually scientists look at the brain when it comes to researching Parkinson's disease. But a recent study turned up a surprising clue in the intestines. This unexpected finding may change how the devastating disease is treated.

Researchers at Rush University Medical Center have discovered a bad protein in the intestines that only shows up in Parkinson's patients.

"This is a cell, a living cell, that's got the protein accumulated in there," said Doctor Kathleen Shannon.

Shannon says when the protein gets to the brain, Parkinson's symptoms appear.

"If you could detect it when it's just in the intestinal wall and then prevent the spread, then patients would never have to develop the typical nervous system symptoms that cause so much disability," said Shannon.

Doctor Jeffrey Kordower, a neurology researcher at Rush University Medical Center, hopes the protein turns out to be a biomarker.

"Maybe we'll be able to tell who gets Parkinson's disease before they get Parkinson's," said Kordower.

The goal is to develop a screening process and a treatment that attacks the protein while it's still in the intestines.

Researchers say there's no known cure for Parkinson's disease and this treatment is aimed at controlling the symptoms of the disease before they progress.


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