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Medical researchers have traditionally known about the existence of one type of Parkinson’s disease that mainly affects the brain, but recent discoveries indicate two types of the disease.

Parkinson’s disease has traditionally been narrowed down to a brain disorder, which causes deterioration of coordination and balance. The disease may advance to levels where the patient loses the ability to talk or walk. Researchers from Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark recently concluded a study that pointed to the existence of another type of Parkinson’s disease that originates in the intestines.

“With the help of advanced scanning techniques, we’ve shown that Parkinson’s disease can be divided into two variants, which start in different places in the body,” stated professor Per Borghammer, who was one of the co-authors of the study.

Professor Borhhammer also added that some Parkinson’s disease patients experience the onset of the disease in the intestines, after which it then taps into neural connections to spread to the brain. The other type of Parkinson’s is more common where the disease initially affects the brain before spreading to other organs such as the intestines or the heart.

How did researchers conclude?

The researchers leveraged technologies such as MRI imaging techniques and advanced PET to study Parkinson’s disease patients. They observed that the dopamine systems of some patients were damaged before heart and intestine damage. Some of the patients had damaged nervous systems in their intestines before they suffered damage in their dopamine systems.

Professor Borghammer stated that the new study’s findings and the resulting knowledge are important because they challenge the traditional understanding of Parkinson’s disease. The new knowledge indicates that medical research is on the right path as far as the disease is concerned. The research adds to the promise of potentially more findings that might contribute to future treatments.

Statistics from the Danish Parkinson’s Disease Association indicate that roughly 8,000 people have Parkinson’s disease in Denmark and roughly 8 million people globally. Advancement of the knowledge that we have about the disease might improve patient outcomes in the future.