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Medical News & Perspectives
July 3, 2019

Uncovering a Link Between the Appendix and Parkinson Disease Risk

JAMA. 2019;322(4):293-294. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.9041

Unless it becomes inflamed, most people don’t give the vermiform appendix a second thought.

But recent studies suggest that the often-overlooked organ plays a role in determining whether its owner will someday be diagnosed with Parkinson disease (PD). Its exact role isn’t yet clear because findings have been conflicting. One study linked removal of the appendix to a lower risk of PD, while the other linked removal to a higher risk.

However, both studies implicate the protein α-synuclein, large aggregates of which form Lewy bodies—abnormal deposits in dopamine-producing neurons in the brains of people with PD. While Lewy bodies are a hallmark of PD, whether they cause the disease is not yet clear.