Getting the appendix removed early in life significantly reduces a person's risk of developing Parkinson's Disease, a study has found.

Researchers who sorted through existing health records found that people who had their appendix removed are 19 percent less likely to be diagnosed with the neurodegenerative diseases later in life. This adds evidence to the claims that the guts and the immune system might be involved in the production of the brain-damaging protein that causes the disease.

The study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, is considered to be one of the biggest that looked into the causes of the neurodegenerative disease. It involved about 1 million individuals from Sweden.

Appendix Linked To Parkinson's

The appendix has a reputation for pretty much being useless. It is ignored until it bursts and needs to be surgically removed from the body. However, the little organ could be harboring whatever causes Parkinson's.

"Despite having a reputation as largely unnecessary, the appendix actually plays a major part in our immune systems, in regulating the makeup of our gut bacteria and now, as shown by our work, in Parkinson's disease," explained Viviane Labrie, an assistant professor at Van Andel Research and a senior author of the study.

The researchers found abnormally folded proteins, called alpha-synuclein, in the appendix. These are closely linked to the onset and progression of Parkinson's.

The same abnormally folded proteins are also found in people that are not diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease. The researchers believe that Parkinson's might be triggered during the rare occurrence that the protein escapes the appendix.

This might be why people who have their appendix removed early in life have a decreased risk of developing Parkinson's. However, Labrie warned that appendectomy does not guarantee that a person will not be diagnosed with Parkinson's. The researcher thinks that there might be additional mechanisms involved.

Finding A Cure For Parkinson's

The exact cause of Parkinson's and an effective prevention/cure have not been found. Researchers promise to continue looking into the link between the appendix and the neurodegenerative disease. Labrie also hopes that future treatments for Parkinson's would include control of the alpha-synuclein and how it is processed in the body.

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