Newswise — Posted by international environmental organizationA pioneering study by the Institute of Biochemistry and Center for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science (CeMESS) of the University of Vienna in collaboration with the University of Konstanz and the Albert Einstein Medical School reveals the role of microbial metabolites in inducing Parkinson’s disease. The role in the disease is similar to the symptoms. The discovery could reshape our understanding of environmental triggers of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a debilitating neurodegenerative disease whose underlying cause is unknown. While genetic mutations are known to cause Parkinson’s disease, an alarming 90% of cases are sporadic and have no clear genetic origin. Scientists suspect environmental factors may play a role, and have studied substances such as pesticides and industrial chemicals for potential links to neurodegenerative diseases. Microbial metabolites are also among possible culprits.
Recent research has highlighted the importance of the gut-brain axis, showing that our microbiome may influence neurodegenerative diseases. Notably, the gut microbiome of Parkinson’s disease patients is different from that of healthy individuals. Some microbial metabolites have even been shown to specifically target dopamine-producing neurons, which are severely affected in Parkinson’s disease.
Inspired by these findings and the potential role of specific bacterial metabolites in inducing Parkinson’s-like symptoms, researchers at the University of Vienna, the University of Konstanz, and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine began a comprehensive study.They focused on metabolites produced by bacteria Streptomyces venezuelaeprevious research suggested this could cause selective damage to dopamine-producing neurons.
The team isolated and characterized this metabolite and exposed human dopamine-producing neurons to it. The results were clear: the metabolites had damaging effects, similar to the neuronal loss seen in Parkinson’s disease. To further validate their findings, the researchers introduced this bacterial metabolite into worms, which then exhibited movement difficulties and specific neuronal patterns similar to those seen in human Parkinson’s disease patients.
Marcel Leist from the University of Konstanz and Thomas Böttcher from the University of Vienna collaborated to lead this groundbreaking research, bridging the fields of microbial biochemistry and molecular neuroscience. The scientists said: “Our study provides a tangible link between specific bacterial metabolites and Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms. It is a step towards understanding how our environment – and even the microbes around us – influence the onset or progression of this disease. .”
This discovery not only provides new insights into the causes of Parkinson’s disease, but also opens up new avenues of research. Do other microbial substances influence neurodegenerative diseases? How do these substances interact with our neurons? Most importantly, could this knowledge lead to new treatments or preventive measures? While this research is just the beginning, it’s a promising step toward unraveling the mysteries of Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.