Your Brain is Better Off Without An Appendix
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parkinson and gut

Sometimes a medical discovery can make fascinating connections. The latest suggests people who’ve had their appendix removed face a lower risk for Parkinson’s disease.

A study of one point six million Swedish patients linked people who’ve had an appendectomy early in life to a nineteen percent lower risk for Parkinson’s. It’s remarkable to find this brain-gut connection because we long had assumed this was strictly a neurological disease.

People with Parkinson’s lose coordination and balance and a hallmark symptom is trembling of the face and hands. So exactly how is a gut organ like the appendix involved in a brain disease?

The three inch organ lays along the gastrointestinal track where the small and large intestines join. We used to think it was a useless organ, but now we know it’s important in gut immune function and protects us from invading microbes. Here’s where it gets interesting.

In this latest study, researchers found the nerve cells inside the appendix had the same misfolded alpha-synuclein proteins that are also in the brains of Parkinson’s patients. First, you should know that the gut is the second largest source of nerve cells in the body after the brain. And these clumped proteins were found in the appendix early in Parkinson’s patients well before symptoms showed up. Turns out, these misfolded proteins are using the vagal nerve to travel between the gut and the brain. So removing the appendix may stop this transference.

Wow – to think that our nerves may serve as a superhighway for disease causing proteins! This shows us just how complex the body is and asking open ended questions as scientists can help us make connections we never could have predicted.

For more information…

The vermiform appendix impacts the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease
Misfolded a-synuclein is a pathological hallmark of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Killinger et al. now report that the human appendix contains an abundance of misfolded a-synuclein and that removal of the appendix decreased the risk of developing PD...

Appendectomy May Lower Risk of Parkinson’s Disease
The neurodegenerative disease shares protein clumps in common with appendixes, perhaps explaining why removing the organ is protective...