HomeScience & TechNew Theory Suggests Environmental Factors May Trigger Parkinson's Disease

New Theory Suggests Environmental Factors May Trigger Parkinson’s Disease

Recent research proposes a novel perspective on the development of Parkinson’s disease, suggesting that environmental factors may play a significant role in triggering the condition. Scientists have long debated whether the gradual loss of neurons associated with Parkinson’s originates from olfactory nerves in the brain or nerves in the gut. Now, an international team of researchers has put forth a compelling model suggesting that the neurodegenerative disease could commence with the spread of toxic proteins from either of these sources, prompted by damage from environmental factors present in both regions.

Neurologist Ray Dorsey from the University of Rochester Medical Center explains, “Here we propose that Parkinson’s is a systemic disease and that its initial roots likely begin in the nose and in the gut and are tied to environmental factors increasingly recognized as major contributors, if not causes, of the disease.”


The team identifies dry cleaning and degreasing chemicals, air pollution, herbicides, weed killers, and contaminated drinking water as potential environmental toxicants implicated in the breakdown of brain function. These toxicants may lead to the misfolding of the alpha-synuclein protein, resulting in the formation of clumps called Lewy bodies, which in turn damage nerve cells in the brain, including those responsible for motor control.

While this theory is still speculative, it draws on previous research confirming associations between Parkinson’s and various environmental hazards. However, unraveling these connections more definitively will require further investigation.

Dorsey notes, “The timing, dose, and duration of exposure and interactions with genetic and other environmental factors are probably key to determining who ultimately develops Parkinson’s.”

Although there are unanswered questions regarding the role of the skin and microbiome, as well as the effects of prolonged exposures over time, this new theoretical model underscores the potential preventability of Parkinson’s disease. By approaching research through this lens, scientists hope to better understand the links between environmental toxicants and the onset of Parkinson’s, paving the way for preventive strategies.

“This further reinforces the idea that Parkinson’s, the world’s fastest-growing brain disease, may be fueled by toxicants and is therefore largely preventable,” Dorsey concludes.

The research findings have been published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease.

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