Parkinson’s Disease and Microbiome

“Gut microbe mix may spark Parkinson’s’

Science News Magazine online article

December 1, 2016


This article describes several studies which, together, suggest that Parkinson’s disease is caused by the intestinal microbiome when it has a specific composition. It was found that the gut microbiome of diseased patients caused alpha-synuclein, the substance present in Parkinson’s patients, to clump in the brain compared to the gut microbiome of a healthy person transferred to mice with high levels of alpha-synuclein. In the second case, the mice did not show as many symptoms and the alpha-synuclein did not clump in the brain (this is what is believed to cause Parkinson’s disease).

We have discussed ideas of the human microbiome determining overall health. This has to do with the “ubiquity of microbes’, meaning they are found in all types of environments. We know that the bacteria in our gut produce byproducts while helping us break down and process our food. It is very interesting that they might be able to send signals to our brains. It seems like microbes must gain something beneficial by sending signals to the brain to make the organism act in a way that helps the microbe gain what it wants. We talked a little bit about microorganisms that infect insects to control them. The article was a summary of several peer-reviewed studies so I think they are credible. This is written in a very good way to communicate science to the general public since that is the purpose of this magazine. It pulls only the important parts of the methods and results to make it easy for the reader but also gives you enough information to critically think about it.

This topic makes me question many things like: What kind of chemical signals could microbes send to the brain to cause the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease? Is it a byproduct of their way of living or is it an intentionally released signal?

New Factors Contributing to Parkinson’s Disease

Source: Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock

Title: Even More Evidence Has Linked Parkinson’s Disease to Our Gut Bacteria

Source:  Mark McRae from Science Alert

Date:  March 4, 2017

Summary: Recent evidence has found that Parkinson’s disease may not only be influenced by the brain, but by gut bacteria too. Also, people’s bodies and the microorganisms they have may influence how they respond to the treatment provided to battle Parkinson’s disease. Even though studies are starting to make the link between microbes and Parkinson’s, these studies can help lead microbiologists and other scientists in the direction of making better medications and treatments for those fighting this disease.

Connections: There was a brief moment in the article that mentioned making medications specific to the individual that needs it based on the microbes within their system, which involved genetics. The bioinformatics lab gives us a glimpse into what goes into identifying bacteria based on their genetic sequence and the different functions that the bacteria’s genes carry out.

Critical Analysis: The title of the article caught my attention because I have been hearing more and more about Parkinson’s disease recently. Also, I was curious to see what the author had to say about other factors that play a role in this disease, instead of being just one component of the body. However, the way that the author wrote the article was a little confusing at times because it seemed as though the author would start to go into more details about the studies that they discuss, but then they would quickly become vague what the researchers were saying based on the results from the studies. Also, there were times that the author seemed to be a little disorganized when it came to presenting their thoughts and backing up their argument with a study.

Question:  Since more studies are starting to link bacteria with the cause of Parkinson’s disease, is there a way to protect against these specific bacteria increasing the chances of someone getting Parkinson’s?

Microbes Play a Beneficial Role in Food

Miso soup
Source: SMarina/iStock

Title:  Fermented flavours

Source:  Chris Loss from Chemistry World

Date:  March 7, 2017

Summary: Microbes play a large role with the food that everyone eats and how various food items grow. Scientists and chefs are starting to team up to enhance the eating experience that people enjoy by examining how they can use different microbes contained within the food to enhance flavors and potential benefits to people’s health. Besides changing the how certain foods taste, microbes can increase the “nutritional” benefits these foods provide too.

Connections: In this article, the author mentions the importance of  the microbes that are being manipulated to help chefs better their customers’ food experience, which adds to the list regarding the importance of microbes.

Critical Analysis:  I have briefly heard how microbes are starting to be used to influence how food tastes and what food can provide for our bodies prior to reading this article. I found the fact that these microbes being manipulated to make some food dishes more nutritionally beneficial to be interesting because this is a field of science that can be explored more. In terms of the scientific accuracy of this article, I could tell that the author was catering towards the food theme, trying to link puns when describing the role of microbes or biochemical processes. Although this makes the article entertaining and easier to read, the author could provide a brief background as to how proteins are influenced by “biochemical cleavers,” for example. This article definitely did a good job at informing the public of the science that is going on and how this type of science can benefit people because the author primarily expressed the benefits of having microbes in food.

Question: Could experimenting with the microbes in fast food make fast food items more nutritional and beneficial to people while keeping the price relatively cheap?