Stomach hormone protects against Parkinson’s disease

4 December 2009

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Category: Research & medical benefits

mice.jpgA study involving mice has revealed that a hormone originating in the stomach has a new use in boosting resistance to Parkinson's disease.

Ghrelin, the hormone produced in the stomach, circulates around the body. It helps in the stimulation of hunger, growth and learning. Recently it has been discovered to have roles in other illnesses such as the Prader-Willi syndrome and anorexia-nervosa.

In Parkinson's disease, dopamine neurons cease to function properly. Consequently reduced quantities of dopamine, an important chemical in the communication of cells, are produced. The resulting symptoms include severe difficulty in walking, tremors, difficulty eating and delayed reactions.

A team studied the role of ghrelin in mice and found it was protective of dopamine neurons. The hormone directly activates the brain's dopamine cells. Research showed mice deficient in ghrelin had a greater loss of dopamine cells than those that were not impaired. Results in mice could feasibly be translated to humans as ghrelin has the same role across many different species.

In further studies, researchers would like to compare levels of ghrelin in healthy individuals and those affected by Parkinson's disease. Differing hormone levels could be a significant biomarker of the disease and its development.