If You Have Had Your Appendix Removed, You’re Less Likely to Develop Parkinson’s Disease

  • A study revealed that people are less likely to develop Parkinson’s if their appendix has been removed.
  • Clumps of protein called alpha-synuclein are found in the appendix of patients without Parkinson’s, which are also found in the brain.
  • Findings suggest that these protein clumps in the appendix may travel to the brain causing Parkinson’s.

Though long thought as a useless organ in the body, the appendix actually contains a substance that kills brain cells linked with movement and memory. Recently, a two-part published study is found to support the idea that the origin of Parkinson’s disease, the degenerative brain disorder lies outside the brain–in particular, the appendix.

Published in the Science Translational Medicine, the study also revealed that people whose appendix had been removed before the early onset of the disease had lower risks of developing it in later life.

Study author Viviane Labrie and her team of researchers at the Van Andel Research Institute, in Michigan studied two databases; one contained data of over 1.6 million Swedish people, and the other, of 849 multinationals diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Both databases identified individuals who had undergone an appendectomy.

The Appendix’ Role in Parkinson’s

Labrie says that results suggest that the appendix may have a role in the initial onset of Parkinson’s. People were found to have a 19 percent lowered chances of developing the disease in later life when they have had their appendix removed early. Moreover, people had on average 3.6 years later end up with the disease if they had it removed than those who did not have the procedure.

In addition, Labrie said Parkinson’s occurs more often in rural areas due possibly to exposures to pesticides. This explained findings that showed residents in rural areas who had their appendix removed had 25% lowered risks of developing the disease compared to urban dwellers who had the surgery. It was noted however that this link did not extend to those who are genetically predisposed to Parkinson’s.

In the 2nd part of the study, 48 imaged appendixes from young and old patients without Parkinson’s, of which some were inflamed and some were not, were studied by the researchers. All appendixes were found to contain protein clumps called alpha-synucleins. These are the same clumps of protein that form around brain neurons which are indicative of Parkinson’s disease.

As told to Live Science, Labrie says their findings suggest that what is in the appendix may be a “seed” that finds its way to the brain and cause Parkinson’s. However, the study has not concluded yet that it actually causes the disease.

Meanwhile, these findings don’t mean that people should get preventative appendectomies, or that you develop Parkinson’s just because you have an appendix.

While Parkinson’s is rare, it also affects less than 1% of the population. Instead, future preventive treatments could target these protein clumps in the gut or prevent its escape to the brain. Further studies also aim to look at other places in the GI tract that also have these clumps.

Source: Live Science

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