Researchers have found that mild to moderate inflammation in the gut can activate through the gut-brain connection a series of damaging events in the brain (1).
Here the scientist studied the onset of Parkinson’s Disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that results in movement disabilities and immobility.
The key molecule here is PINK1 that monitors the health of mitochondria and disposes off damaged ones.
Intestinal infections result in mitochondrial defects in the brain cells called neurons. PINK1 recognizes the damaged mitochondria and tags them for removal. However, if PINK1 is not working properly, the dysfunctional mitochondria are not removed and begin damaging their host cells, here the dopaminergic cells. Loss of dopaminergic cells in the brain are called substantia nigra leads to the progression of Parkinson’s Disease.
There are many ways PINK1 can be disabled. Our laboratories have reported that PINK1 can be disabled through a process called S-Nitrosylation (NO in the image)(2). Environmental toxins and stress are the major triggers for the S-Nitrosylation of PINK1.
It is now more obvious that toxins and bad nutrition that can cause inflammation in our intestines can have a direct effect through PINK1 on brain health.
Although both studies were done in mice and, further research is needed to understand fully the mechanisms involved, these finding have a significance for the initiation of a human disease. They suggest that avoiding intestinal inflammation through proper nutrition, clean foods, and stress-reduction is essential for our brain health.