To do so, they examined the medical data of more than 1.6 million people in Sweden and followed up with each of them after about 54 years. They evaluated those who had gotten an appendectomy, the removal of the appendix, and specifically evaluated the accumulation of alpha-synuclein, proteins associated with Parkinson’s disease.
After analyzing the results, they found that removing the appendix early in life reduced the risk of a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis. In fact, people who had an appendectomy were 19 percent less likely to develop the illness and those in rural areas who had an appendectomy were 25 percent less likely. They noted Parkinson’s disease is more prevalent in rural populations.
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“The reduced risk for Parkinson’s was only apparent when the appendix and the alpha-synuclein contained within it were removed early in life, years before the onset of Parkinson’s, suggesting that the appendix may be involved in disease initiation,” the team wrote in a statement. “Removal of the appendix after the disease process starts, however, had no effect on disease progression.”
The scientists said an appendectomy can also delay disease progression for those who go on to develop Parkinson’s. It can push back a diagnosis by 3.6 years, according to the findings.
“Our findings today add a new layer to our understanding of this incredibly complex disease,” coauthor Bryan Killinger added. “This knowledge will be invaluable as we explore new prevention and treatment strategies.”
The analysts clarified than an appendectomy will not prevent Parkinson’s disease. However, they hope to use their conclusions to further their investigations to better understand the illness and prevention measures.
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