Microscope on microbiome research

20 December 2019

They say the gut is the second brain, but is gut bacteria disrupting the balance between the gastrointestinal system and the brain for those living with Parkinson’s disease (PD)?

New research by the Perron Institute and Murdoch University will investigate this relationship and its potential impact on disease progression. The study, funded by MSWA, will explore short-chain fatty acids, a by-product of bacterial digestion of fibre in the colon, to understand key mechanisms and biomarkers that are associated with PD.

The research is a collaboration between head of neurodegenerative disease research at the Perron Institute Dr Ryan Anderton and Western Australian researcher Dr Luke Whiley at the Australian National Phenome Centre at Murdoch University. This research will build on ongoing work with Dr Alfred Tay at the Marshall Centre, named after Professor Barry J. Marshall, who was jointly awarded a 2005 Nobel Prize with J Robin Warren.

Dr Anderton said that the gastrointestinal system is considered to have a major role in the pathology of PD. “The study will use several motor and neurological assessments to estimate cognitive and motor function of study participants previously clinically diagnosed with PD and compare corresponding data concentrations in their urine and stool samples,” said Dr Anderton.

“The imbalance between the gastrointestinal system and the brain could be resulting in toxic neurological effects leading to the loss or dysfunction of particular groups of neurons influencing the physiological mechanisms that may develop into symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases such as PD and Alzheimer’s.

MSWA CEO Marcus Stafford AM said that he looks forward to the research findings. “With such a fantastic research team behind this topical and relevant project, I’m confident the results will add considerable value to the broader research effort.”

MSWA is funding several Perron Institute research projects that aim to impact Parkinson’s disease, stroke, acquired brain injury, motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis (MS), showcasing our commitment to supporting all neurological conditions.

“We’re proud to continue working with the Perron Institute again this year, the fifth year since we have joined forces to work on new and exciting research being carried out right here in Western Australia,” said Mr Stafford.

Perron Institute CEO Steve Arnott said the institute was grateful to MSWA for the funding, allowing the important research to be conducted.

“The continued funding from MSWA is of prime importance in enabling the Perron Institute to deliver outcomes in our research streams,” said Mr Arnott.

“The financial support provides our researchers with the opportunity to continue with their specific areas of investigation, all of which are in areas of significant unmet need.”

Listen to ABC’s interview with Dr Luke Whiley. Keep an eye out on MSWA’s website and FB page to learn more about other MSWA funded research.