January 10, 2019

Laura Childers (Duke University)

Parkinson’s disease (PD) causes devastating nerve death in the brain, but surprisingly,
the disease may be affected by gut health. Gut dysbiosis—the disruption of a healthy gut
microbiome—is suspected to contribute to the disease. Many people with PD have an
unhealthy gut microbiome, but we do not understand the degree to which their genes are
causing gut dysbiosis. Differences in PD patients’ genetics could change the environment in
their intestines and affect the balance of microbes living there.
There are certain genes in our DNA that can pass down Parkinson’s disease from one
generation to the next. A mutated LRRK2 gene is the most common cause of heritable PD. To
our knowledge, no one has researched the connection between LRRK2 and gut dysbiosis. In this
project, our team will investigate whether this mutated LRRK2 gene can cause gut dysbiosis. We
will also investigate whether an immune system gene, NOS2, plays a role in these effects.
Understanding the interactions between our DNA and gut microbes could lead to the
development of novel treatments. In addition to traditional drug therapies, treatments
designed to modulate the gut microbiome and correct gut dysbiosis could improve patient
health outcomes.