How and why Parkinson’s disease (PD) starts and progresses is still not exactly known, but active research points to genetics and environment, among other factors. The environment is both external and internal – external in terms of what people encounter outside their bodies and internal in terms of what is inside their bodies. Researchers studying a variety of diseases have learned the importance of the microbiome in health and disease. The microbiome consists of all those bacteria, fungi, and viruses that occupy niches on and inside of people, such as on the skin, in the nose and mouth, and in the gut. These organisms can have far reaching effects in the body, distant from their own locations. Some of these interactions can affect the brain.
Ali Keshavarzian, MD, Chief of the Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition at Rush University in Chicago has been studying the role of the gut microbiome and its relation to inflammation, such as in inflammatory bowel disease, in addition to more distant sites including in the brain. His research includes the role of the gut microbiome as a contributing factor to the development and progression of PD as well as the potential to manipulate it to help manage the disease. He conducts both basic science research using animal models and clinical research with people with PD.
- Parkinson’s Today Blog: The PG Gut-Brain Connection
- Expert Briefing: Nutrition and Parkinson’s (webinar)
- Episode 4: The Importance of Good Nutrition for People with Parkinson’s (podcast)
About This Episode
Released: November 19 2019
Ali Keshavarzian, MD
Ali Keshavarzian, MD, FRCP, FACP, MACG, AGAF the Josephine M. Dyrenforth Chair of Gastroenterology, Professor of Medicine and the Graduate College, Director of the Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition (1999) and Director of the Institute for Advanced Study of the Gut, Chronobiology and Inflammation (2017) at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois has been a practicing gastroenterologist with a specialty in managing patients with inflammatory bowel disease for over 30 years.
As a clinician scientist, he has been studying the impact of environmental factors [stress, alcohol, sleep and circadian disruption] on intestinal barrier function host/microbe interaction that promote intestinal and systemic [gut-derived] inflammation leading to initiation and/or progression of inflammatory disorders including IBD, IBS, food allergy, metabolic syndrome, alcoholic cirrhosis, NASH and Parkinson’s disease. He has contributed to over 350 published articles [h-index of 77] and book chapters. His works have been supported by multiple NIH, DoD, NASA and USDA grants. He was one of the first investigators to report the key role of oxygen free radicals in tissue injury in inflammatory bowel disease and one of the first investigators to begin to focus on the role of intestinal microbiota in health and disease in alcoholism, IBD, cancer, HIV and Parkinson. He is one of the early investigators to examine the effects of circadian and sleep disruption on GI tract and to report the negative impact of sleep and circadian disruption in IBD.
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For more insights on this topic, listen to our podcast episode “The Role of the Microbiome in PD: Part Two”.