We’ve always wondered what the purpose is of that typically benign organ known as the appendix. It has been a commonly-held opinion that the organ is simply a vestige of a former function that is no longer needed.
But now, in a shocking study coming out of the University of Cleveland Medical Center, we may have been completely wrong about that!
According to a team of gastroenterologists at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, “Patients who have had their appendix removed are three times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than those who have not, according to a new study."
“After analyzing over 62 million patient records, in the largest observational study on Parkinson’s and appendectomies, researchers were able to uncover what many other medical professionals had not."
The team’s data pointed to a 300% increase in the occurrence of Parkinson’s Disease in patients who had their appendices surgically removed versus those who retained the organ.
Dr. Mohammed Sheriff, lead author on the project, says that the team simply built on recent research that indicated the key to decoding Parkinson’s Disease lies in the gut.
Sheriff said, “Recent research into the cause of Parkinson’s has centered around alpha-synuclein, a protein found in the gastrointestinal tract early in the onset of Parkinson’s.”
"... the appendix is a collection point for an abnormal protein linked to Parkinson’s disease called alpha-synuclein. Research has shown that the protein can jump between neurons and is capable of traveling up the gastrointestinal tract to the brain."
He goes on to explain, “This is why scientists around the world have been looking into the gastrointestinal tract, including the appendix, for evidence about the development of Parkinson’s.”
This is not the first research study conducted on this issue, but results in the past have away been inconsistent. This study, however, used a much larger group of subjects, increasing the validity of its results.
“From the U.S. this is the largest study to date, so we wanted to see what the association would be in this database, and then if the differences were consistent across different subgroups,” Dr. Gregory Cooper, UHCMC Research Advisor, told Fox News.
Cooper acknowledges that the study did have some limitations but still stands behind the results, “stating that they had restricted access into patients’ medical records, and couldn’t account for variables such as family history and prescriptions taken.”
Still, Cooper says the results are promising for future discoveries about the debilitating disease.
The last remaining bit is trying to discover WHY this association exists. Cooper is hopeful that the results of his research will open the doors to a deeper investigation into the causes.
“We make these observations but we can’t really pinpoint the mechanism so that would be an impetus for [other doctors] to do something in the lab,” Cooper said.