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University of Florida neuroscientists make breakthroughs in research regarding Parkinson’s disease (PD) in rodent model. The findings indicate both dopamine neuron loss protection and improved motor deficits due to alterations with gut microbiota and antibiotics.

With PD affecting approximately 10 million worldwide with degeneration of motor and non-motor functioning skills, there are currently no existing pharmacological treatments for curing the condition. The degeneration of dopamine neurons is a the key contributor to PD motor symptoms as the condition progresses. Gastrointestinal dysfunction in PD patients often occurs prior to these PD motor symptoms.

Gut microbiota is important in functions including intestinal barrier function, metabolism, immunity and brain function. Likewise, studies have shown important links between this gut microbiota and neurological conditions, including PD.

“The goal of this study was to explore the contribution of the gut microbiota to the behavioral and neurochemical alterations in a rodent toxin model of DA depletion that reproduces the motor symptoms associated with PD.”

Observing the chronic treatment of adult rats with given antibiotics, scientists noted the dopaminergic neuron loss and pro-inflammatory markers in antibiotic-treated animals compared to control animals. By using observable paw-rearing measurements in the cylinder test, forepaw stepping test, and amphetamine-induced rotation test, UF neuroscientists were able to draw conclusions regarding the gut microbiota.

Due to tests, the results show the gut microbiota as a “potential contributor to pathology in the development of PD,” though further studies are needed to understand the specific mechanisms related to the changes in dopaminergic neuron loss and motor dysfunction.

Read full paper in PubMed.