. Scientific Frontline: Progesterone could protect against Parkinson's

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Progesterone could protect against Parkinson's

Lennart Stegemann (left) and Paula Neufeld are working on their doctoral theses and were able to celebrate an early success with the top-class publication.
Photo Credit: © RUB, Marquard

In one study, progesterone showed a protective effect on the nerve cells of the intestine. This gives hope for the hormone to be used against Parkinson's.

There is mutual communication between the nerve cells of the gastrointestinal tract and those in the brain and spinal cord. It suggests that the digestive nervous system could affect brain processes that lead to Parkinson's. Paula Neufeld and Lennart Stegemann, who are doing their doctorate in the cytology department of the Medical Faculty of the Ruhr University Bochum, have demonstrated progesterone receptors for the first time in the nerve cells of the gastrointestinal tract and have shown that progesterone protects the cells. Their discovery opens up perspectives for the development of novel neuroprotective therapeutic approaches to counteract diseases such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's. The study is in the journal Cells.

The second brain

The Enteric Nervous System (ENS) is a complex network that stretches along the entire gastrointestinal tract. It consists of around 100 million nerve cells, autonomously controls digestive processes and is often referred to as the second brain of humans. But its function goes far beyond digestion: the latest research has shown that the ENS communicates intensively with the central nervous system (CNS), i.e. brain and spinal cord. "The connection of the ENS with the CNS is currently associated with the development of various neurological diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, but also depression," explains Prof. Dr. Carsten Theiß, head of the cytology department at Ruhr University. The intestinal-brain axis is not a one-way street; both nervous systems mutually influence each other.

Food has a direct influence on the microbiome in the intestine, which in turn interacts with the ENS. Studies show that the composition of the microbiome can also influence the CNS via the intestinal-brain axis, especially via the vagus nerve, and can promote diseases such as Parkinson's disease. A balanced diet can not only contribute to the maintenance of nerve cells in the intestine, but can also delay or even prevent Parkinson's disease by years.

The protective effect of progesterone

The doctoral students Paula Neufeld and Lennart Stegemann have now succeeded in demonstrating a protective influence of the natural steroid hormone progesterone on the nerve cells of the ENS. In a series of experiments, the two cultivated nerve cells from the ENS for several weeks and treated them with a cell poison to simulate harmful conditions that resemble Parkinson's disease. They found that the nerve cells, which were also treated with progesterone, died significantly less frequently than the untreated cells.

Paula Neufeld emphasizes the importance of her discovery: “Our research provides important insights to complete basic knowledge about the role of progesterone receptors in the Enterian nervous system. This opens up completely new ways of examining the neuroprotective mechanisms of action of progesterone inside and outside the intestinal tract. "Lennart Stegemann adds that" this study could possibly pave the way for new steroid hormone-based therapeutic approaches. There is also hope that steroid-based therapeutic approaches could help slow down or even stop neurodegenerative diseases. ”.

The work is the result of the collaboration and recorded translational research between the Department of Cytology under the direction of Prof. Dr. Carsten Theiß at the medical campus of the Ruhr University Bochum and Prof. Dr. Matthias Vorgerd, the senior physician at the Clinic for Neurology at the BG University Hospital Bergmannsheil in Bochum.

Published in journal: Cells

Source/CreditRuhr University Bochum

Reference Number: ns060623_01

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