The cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown and a reliable biomarker to identify Parkinson’s disease patients as early as possible is urgently needed. Nerve cells near the nose and in the gut become first affected in Parkinson’s disease and patients frequently suffer from loss of smell and constipation. The nose and gut harbor very high amounts of bacteria that influence our body functions in many ways, even in the brain. We are investigating a possible role of bacteria of the nose and gut in the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease. This may lead to a better understanding of what Parkinson’s disease causes and may open new possibilities for diagnosis and treatment.
We will recruit 100 Parkinson’s disease patients and 100 control subjects. We will characterize all subjects carefully with respect to clinical symptoms. We will collect bacterial samples from the nose and stool of these subjects. Using modern genomic techniques we will read out the genetic code of all bacteria contained in these samples and will be able to identify which species of bacteria are present in the samples. Using complex cluster computing we will compare the pattern of bacterial species between Parkinson’s disease patients and controls and look for specific abnormalities in Parkinson’s disease patients.
Relevance to Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease:
If we can detect specific differences of bacterial communities between Parkinson’s disease patients and controls this may point to a role of bacteria as a cause of Parkinson’s disease. Since there are many ways to influence bacterial communities pharmacologically (antibiotics, probiotics) it will be possible to investigate whether these therapies could alleviate or even reverse Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Furthermore, we would be able to use these differences as a biomarker which would enable us to develop a quick screening test for bacterial samples that may reveal whether a person has Parkinson’s disease or not.
By doing this study we will learn whether bacteria play a role in the development of Parkinson’s disease and whether we can use them as a biomarker or therapeutic target. Hopefully, we will be able in the future to better understand what causes Parkinson’s disease, how we can diagnose it as early as possible and how to cure patients from Parkinson’s disease.