Research Snapshots: Drs. Malú Tansey and Madelyn Houser

Image of a graph showing p-d symptoms varied amongst groups

By Todd Taylor

New research provides insight into how inflammation, bacterial populations and levels of short-chain fatty acids, or SCFAs, might be linked to the development of Parkinson’s disease. The study, published in the journal Molecular Neurodegeneration, was co-authored by Malú Tansey, co-director of UF’s Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease.

Examining blood and stool samples and clinical data collected from 55 patients with Parkinson’s disease and 56 control subjects, the researchers reported a higher prevalence of gut inflammation in female patients with Parkinson’s disease. In male patients with Parkinson’s disease vs. control subjects, they found lower levels of SCFAs, a class of molecules which often promote gut health. Moreover, Parkinson’s disease patients with higher levels of gut inflammation started showing disease symptoms at an earlier age, while patients with higher levels of SCFAs were older when their symptoms appeared, suggesting that SCFAs could potentially protect against Parkinson’s disease development, while gut inflammation may contribute to it.

The results also indicated that certain kinds of bacteria might have affected patients with Parkinson’s disease differently than the control subjects.

“Many studies have shown that inflammation, bacterial populations and SCFA levels in the gut are different in Parkinson’s disease patients, but this research provides a glimpse of how those pieces fit together and how they might impact the development of disease,” said co-author Madelyn Houser, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher at Emory University. “Our findings suggest some interesting possible mechanisms that will need to be confirmed with future studies.”

Read the paper in Molecular Neurodegeneration