What takes out the bridge is still not clear.
Bad genes make the bridge weak, but it takes something to knock the bridge out.
Researchers suggest the fire breathing monster (Helicobacter pylori), which burns holes in the gut causing an ulcer, might also be responsible for burning down the bridge between the substantia nigra and corpus striatum.
Stomach ulcer Parkinson connection
Back in the 1960s, doctors noticed stomach ulcers and Parkinson’s often went hand in hand. In those days, stomach ulcers were thought to be a stress problem, not a bug problem.
Helicobacter pylori infection gives mice the shakes
Researchers from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Centre found that if they infected middle-aged mice, with a particular strain of Helicobacter pylori, the mice developed symptoms of Parkinson’s disease a few months later.
Guam cycad seeds and the bug
A number of chemicals have been implicated in the destruction of the substantia nigra bridge. Top of the list are a couple of pesticides, but these don’t have an obvious connection to Helicobacter pylori.
But a chemical in cycad seeds does.
It was noticed that some populations in Guam have a very high rate of a Parkinson’s like disease. When these populations were studied, it was found that they included the seeds of a cycad in their diet. The seeds turned out to be neurotoxic. The chemical causing all the trouble sort of looked a bit like a cholesterol molecule, with a sugar attached.
Guess who else can make this very same chemical – Helicobacter pylori.
Helicobacter’s toxic by-product
The researchers set about testing whether the Helicobacter pylori by-product, could be responsible for the damage to the dopamine neurons.
This time, instead of infecting the mice with the bug, they removed the bacteria, but fed them the modified cholesterol molecule which the bacteria was producing.
The mice developed the shakes.
HP burning the bridge
Helicobacter is clearly able to not only burn a hole in the stomach, but it can burn a hole in the brain too, if it has the right tools. Fortunately, not all strains have the equipment to allow them to burn the bridge.
Protect your brain bridges by keeping the monster underwraps.
NOTE : If you’re suffering from Parkinson’s disease, chat to your doctor about testing for Helicobacter pylori infection. If it is lurking in your gut, zapping it, might slow progression of the disease.
Press release from American Society for Microbiology
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