(11/12/12) - The key to ending Parkinson's Disease may be in the stomach, instead of the brain. The discovery that could revolutionize treatment of the neurological disease. Most Parkinson's research is based in the brain, but one study, focused on the stomach, has researchers doing a double-take.
Richard Bailey says he can't play the guitar like he used to. "I guess that's what you lose in Parkinson's, is the automation."
He has taken part in several studies, but the most recent, he says, was the most unusual. "Well, it's the first time I've had a gastroenteritis examine as part of a neurological exam, so that was a bit of a surprise."
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," says Dr. Kathleen Shannon.
When the protein gets to the brain, Parkinson's symptoms appear. Shannon adds, "If you can detect it when it's just in the intestinal wall and then prevent the spread, then patients would never have to develop typical nervous system symptoms that can cause so much disability."
Her colleague, Dr. Jeffrey Kordower, hopes the protein turns out to be a bio-marker. "Maybe we'll be able to tell who gets Parkinson's before they get Parkinson's."
The ultimate goal is to develop a screening process, along with a treatment that attacks the protein while it's still in the intestines.
Richard hopes his role in the research will help bring an end to Parkinson's. Right now, Rush University Medical Center is recruiting for further studies. The number for people interested in the research study is: 312-563-2900 (then press 4 for participation information). The study is recruiting in Chicago, SW Michigan, Quad cities, Wisconsin and NW Indiana.
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