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Gut neurons linked to Parkinson's disease

Wednesday April 29th, 2020

Researchers have investigated which types of nerve cells contain genes linked to Parkinson’s disease, pinpointing a cluster in the gut.

Professor Patrick Sullivan of the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, and colleagues analysed several genome-wide association study results to identify these cell types. They found that psychiatric disorders are mainly linked with excitatory and inhibitory projecting neurons, which interact to control the firing of neurons.

The team state that different neurological diseases were associated with different cell types, as seen in previous research.

Writing in Nature Genetics on Monday (27 April) they report: “Notably, Parkinson’s disease was genetically associated not only with cholinergic and monoaminergic neurons (which include dopaminergic neurons) but also with enteric neurons and oligodendrocytes.”

Their analysis showed alterations in these cells even at the earliest stages of the disease.

They explain that oligodendrocytes are found in the central nervous system and enteric neurons in the gastrointestinal tissues.

“Our study provides an important framework for understanding the cellular basis of complex brain maladies and reveals an unexpected role of oligodendrocytes in Parkinson’s disease,” they write.

Professor Sullivan says: “As expected, we found that dopaminergic neurons were associated with Parkinson's disease. More surprisingly, we found that enteric neurons also seem to play an important role in the disorder, supporting the hypothesis that Parkinson's disease starts in the gut."

Co-author Dr Jens Hjerling-Leffler added that the results make oligodendrocytes “an attractive target for therapeutic interventions in Parkinson's disease."

Bryois, J. et al. Genetic identification of cell types underlying brain complex traits yields insights into the etiology of Parkinson's disease. Nature Genetics 27 April 2020; doi: 10.1038/s41588-020-0610-9

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41588-020-0610-9

Tags: Brain & Neurology | Europe | Gastroenterology

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