Kelsey Research Foundation – UTHealth Center for Microbiome Research Discovers Altering Gut Microbiome Improves Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

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Researchers at the Kelsey Research Foundation (KRF) – UTHealth Center for Microbiome Research have reported in Frontiers in Neurology that patients with an early Parkinson’s disease diagnosis tolerated a multi-dose treatment by a fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) capsule – a unique, freeze-dried fecal microbiota product developed by the research team – which resulted in an improvement in subject’s quality of life, including motor and non-motor symptoms.

More than 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s disease. Researchers have found a functional link between the bacteria in the gut and the onset of Parkinson’s disease, concluding patients with Parkinson’s disease may have abnormal gut microbiota that adversely affect the intestinal enteric nervous system allowing damaging proteins to reach the brain through the vagus nerve. The KRF UTHealth Center for Microbiome Research, led by Herbert L. DuPont, MD, MACP, KRF’s Chief Scientific Officer and professor and founder of Infectious Disease at UTHealth (McGovern Medical School and School of Public Health), was established in 2014 as a collaboration between KRF, UTHealth’s McGovern Medical School, and UTHealth’s School of Public Health to investigate conditions and diseases associated with a loss of intestinal microbiota diversity.

“Our hypothesis is that if we can control the microbiome in the gut, then we can affect the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and most likely control the progression of disease,” remarked Dr. DuPont. “Through the use of a wireless measuring device (SmartPill®) swallowed by the subjects receiving FMT, we also demonstrated significant improvement in gut contractions and amplitude of contractions which explained how the product improved their constipation.”

DuPont and his colleagues conducted a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study, wherein orally FMT capsule or matching placebo was given to 12 patients with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease with constipation twice weekly for 12 weeks. Patients were followed for safety and clinical improvement for nine additional months.

“In addition to improvement in their microbiome, subjects randomized to fecal microbiota but not the placebo group, reported reduced constipation, falls, improved smell, motor symptoms and overall Parkinson’s disease,” DuPont said.

The study supports further research designed to reverse the abnormal microbiome in Parkinson’s disease. DuPont and his team are planning studies to evaluate longer term administration of FMT along with consumption of microbiota friendly foods, such as fiber and resistant starches, for more durable effects. The team will also embark on studies to define how improvement in the microbiome may have such dramatic effects on the disease.

“The results of this study have not only contributed to our understanding of the gut microbiome and its relationship with neurodegenerative diseases but marks an important milestone in the scientific work of the KRF – UTHealth Center for Microbiome Research,” said Ashley S. Alexander, MHSA, KRF CEO and President. “The observed improvements in patient function, disease, and quality of life support further research into the use of a FMT capsule product as a low-cost, high science treatment for patients with other conditions associated with the loss of gut diversity.”

This study was funded by the MD Anderson Foundation, Joe & Jessie Crump Foundation Medical Research Fund, KRF, and The University of Texas School of Public Health. The study was also supported by the Texas Medical Center, Digestive Diseases Center [Public Health Service grant DK56338].

Dr. Herbert L. DuPont served as the lead author in the Frontiers in Neurology article along with Mya C. Schiess, MD as the senior author. A full list of co-authors is included in the paper.

For more information, please visit the Kelsey Research Foundation at

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