Genome editing could be a large part of research and treatment in the future. Since the 1960s, scientists have noticed a high degree of variance in the treatment of patients with Parkinson’s disease. The current and largely unchanged method for treatment includes the introduction of levodopa, an important precursor chemical to effective motor-muscle stability. Genome editing could be a large part of research and treatment in the future.
When in the brain, levodopa is converted into dopamine, which is used to aid in slow and continued muscle movements. It was discovered recently, however, that the conversion of levodopa to dopamine varied greatly in patients with different types of bacteria living in their guts. Some patients found effective treatment while others found themselves saddled with some unfortunate side effects, such as gastrointestinal distress and cardiac arrhythmias.
Recently though, a newly discovered link in understanding how the particular bacterium Enterococcus faecalis intercepts levodopa may just help in making treatments less varied and more effective across the board.
Discovering gene editing Gut Treatments For Diseases Like Parkinson’s
Harvard scientists, sifting through the data gathered by the Human Microbiome project, recently focused in on how Enterococcus Faecalis works in the body to convert the levodopa into dopamine. This sounds beneficial to the body, as dopamine is one of the most important chemicals aiding in muscle function; however, when it is happening in the gut, it’s not so useful.
In order to be effective, the drug needs to get through the gut and across the blood-brain barrier to be converted to dopamine in the brain. By making dopamine in the stomach, the bacteria siphon the effectiveness of the chemical by using the dopamine themselves.
When it comes to the treatment of a disease like Parkison’s, sharing with bacteria results in complications and adverse effects. What’s more, once transformed into dopamine in the stomach, the chemicals can be further converted by other bacteria, like Eggerthella lenta, into nastier things like meta-tyramine, which may play a large part in the previously mentioned side effects.
Genome Editing Modernizes Old Processes For Gut Transformations
By understanding how these bacteria break down the payload before it reaches its desired destination, the scientists found a way to stop the process by turning off the bacteria’s method of converting the compound. Impressively, they were able to manage this without killing the bacteria. Using an inhibitor that mimicked a compound the bacteria preferred to work with, the team essentially distracted the bacteria long enough to sneak the levodopa through the stomach and over the blood-brain barrier more effectively.
It’s a method that mirrors a current practice of using a similar molecule called carbidopa to accomplish the same goal. This related effort misses these key offenders, however, for a large portion of offending gut bacteria. Thus, the two processes used together may prove to form the most comprehensive treatment of Parkison’s disease to date.
This study is just one of many recent looks into how the gut interacts with the brain in ways that were previously unknown to science. Many are excited to see how this treatment process and processes like it develop and what the gut means to both physical health and mental health.