Colonoscopy May Detect Parkinson’s

Neurological researchers from the Rush University Medical Center have concluded that tissues obtained from colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy can be utilized to predict if a person is prone to Parkinson’s disease.  Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of aging that result in the decline of motor function. This decline is due to the loss of neurons producing dopamine which is responsible for the neurotransmission from the brain to the muscles. Millions of people around the globe suffer from Parkinson’s and it is predicted that 10 million will be affected by the year 2030.

Alpha-synuclein is a protein that is deposited in the brain cells for people who have Parkinson’s disease. This is considered as an indicator of the disorder.  Researchers are Rush has determined that the protein is also seen in the nerve cells of the colon with people who have early onset Parkinson’s. People who are healthy do not have the protein in their bowel walls.

Ten subjects with early Parkinson’s diagnosis were subjected to flexible sigmoidoscopy which is similar process like colonoscopy. However, sigmoidoscopy’s flexible tube insertion is only up to 8 inches in the colon. There is also no preparation involved and no anaesthesia needed. The method takes only 5-10 minutes. The researchers took samples of the tissue walls from the patients and found alpha-synuclein on these tissues. This study is the first one its kind to deal on such connection.

The study results were published last May 15 on the Movement Disorders Journal. The team was headed by Dr. Kathleen M. Shannon, a neurologist at the Movement Disorders and Parkinson’s Center at Rush. The researchers studied samples of tissues that were taken during colonoscopy that were made from 2-5 years prior to the fist symptom of Parkinson’s on 3 subjects. All of them showed the protein on the walls of the colon.

There are pathological and clinical evidences to support the notion that Parkinson’s disease starts with the intestinal wall and proliferates to the brain nerves. Dr. Shannon believes that it may be probable in the very near future to use tissues obtained from colonoscopy procedures to determine who is prone to have Parkinson’s disease. This could begin during initial colonoscopy which starts at age 50 and to be repeated every 3 to 10 years. The colonoscopy procedure may then be used for screening other than for colon cancer. This proves to be not only cost efficient but also beneficial to the patient in terms of an early warning for Parkinson’s disease.

At present, diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is made when there is a presence of tremor, rigidity, slow movement and gait inadequacies. Diagnosing Parkinson’s disease is difficult and if only when the main symptoms begin. The study authors conclude that the alpha-nuclein found can be a biomarker and can be studied further on how it can be an indicator for development of Parkinson’s disease. The Rush scientist emphasized further that there is a need for further study on how colonoscopy tissue results can help in the understanding of Parkinson’s disease.