Researchers at UMass Lowell’s Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences are investigating the connection between the gut microbiome and the risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. This research could lead to earlier detection and novel treatments for these neurodegenerative diseases, which affect millions globally. Key findings and initiatives from the study include:
Link Between Gut Microbiome and Parkinson’s Disease: The study, led by Associate Professor Natalia Palacios, found that healthy, anti-inflammatory bacteria were less abundant in individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This suggests a potential link between gut inflammation and Parkinson’s, with changes in the gut microbiome observable before the disease’s diagnosis.
Gut-Brain Axis: The research emphasizes the critical role of the gut-brain axis, a communication system connecting the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system. This axis is crucial in understanding the onset and progression of neurodegenerative diseases.
Largest Study on Microbiome in Latinos: Funded by a new $2 million NIH grant, Palacios and Professor Katherine Tucker are conducting a comprehensive study of the microbiome in Latinos to explore the link between the gut microbiome and Alzheimer’s disease. This study is part of the ongoing Boston Puerto Rican Health Study (BPRHS), which examines health disparities in Puerto Rican adults.
Future Implications: The results of these studies could lead to novel biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease and a better understanding of its causes. The research team will analyze MRI brain scans, blood, and stool samples to identify gut composition, bacterial function, and any harmful molecules that could disrupt the brain.