Jan 10, 2023
Researchers are accumulating evidence about how the environment affects our health and our diseases – both our internal and external environments. A significant part of our internal environment is the gut microbiome, that is, the bacteria, fungi, and viruses that naturally inhabit our intestinal tracts. The external environment is everything around us that we eat, inhale, or come into contact with, including industrial chemicals and pesticides.
Studies have shown that people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) harbor distinct gut microbiomes. Environmental exposures and genetic factors can affect the composition of the microbiome. Exposure to pesticides is a leading environmental risk for many neurological diseases, including PD. Tim Sampson, PhD, a cell biologist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence, received one of the Foundation’s Stanley Fahn Junior Faculty Awards to study how genetics and Parkinson’s-linked pesticides affect the gut microbiome. The aim is to see how these interactions may trigger Parkinson’s symptoms within the gut as well as those originating in the brain, with a goal of gaining insight at the earliest stages of the disease to better prevent PD and develop new therapeutic targets.