(RNN) – New research suggests that Parkinson’s disease could come from your gut.
A study published this week offers evidence that the neurodegenerative disease which attacks the brain and results in the loss of control of motor function could get the proteins linked with Parkinson’s from the appendix.
The research found that the risk for the disease, which has famously affected high-profile figures like actor Michael J. Fox and boxer Muhammad Ali, was found to be greatly reduced in people who have had their appendix removed.
According to the BBC, the risk was as much as 20 percent lower in those who’d had their appendix removed.
The study, conducted at the Van Andel Research Institute in Michigan, was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday.
It focused on the buildup of the protein a-synuclein, which the authors wrote is a “pathological hallmark of Parkinson’s disease.”
It noted that “the human appendix contains an abundance of misfolded a-synuclein” and that “removal of the appendix decreased the risk of developing” the disease.
The study also found that even people who developed Parkinson’s but had their appendix removed earlier in life developed the disease more than three years later than the typical patient, on average.
The researchers concluded that their study “supports the hypothesis that the appendix plays a role in the development or triggering” of Parkinson’s.
One researcher, however, stressed to the BBC that the study shouldn’t be taken as a reason to get your appendix removed.
“We’re not advocating appendectomy as a form of protecting against Parkinson’s disease,” the researcher, Dr. Viviane Labrie, said.
The research could, however, help lead to better treatments or preventative measures for the disease, and generally better help doctors understand it.