By Danielle Houghton
Professor of Neuroscience at UF, Malú Gámez Tansey, Ph. D., reviews LRRK2 as the missing link between inflammatory bowel disease and Parkinson’s disease (PD).
More specifically, this review article looked into the scientific studies associating inflammatory bowel disease with Parkinson’s through the LRRK2 gene which is involved in inflammatory activity in the gut, blood and brain.
When it comes to the gastrointestinal system, PD shares several similarities with Crohn’s disease (CD), including intestinal inflammation, which is currently hypothesized to contribute to PD neuropathology. In addition, mutations in LRRK2 are one of the greatest genetic contributors to PD and have been associated with increased incidence of CD, according to the given review.
With the idea that LRRK2 regulates inflammatory processes, Tansey and team note that LRRK2 may sit at “a crossroads whereby gut inflammation and higher LRRK2 levels in CD may be a biomarker of increased risk for sporadic PD and/or may represent a tractable therapeutic target in inflammatory diseases that increase risk for PD.”
Tansey explains, “If the epidemiological and genetic associations prove to be correct that the mechanisms involved in IBD and Parkinson’s are shared, it may be possible to use or develop drugs for one disease to prevent or mitigate risks for the other.”
A key takeaway from this research review for the public, Tansey says, is “that gut health may have an important role in brain health.” Tansey specializes in neuroimmunology and neurodegeneration.