New lab model recreates early spread of Parkinson’s disease in the brain

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Author: Parkinson's Life editorsPublished: 11 August 2016

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A new laboratory model of Parkinson’s disease is giving scientists an inside look at what happens in the brain years before motor symptoms appear. It demonstrates how abnormal alpha-synuclein proteins, which are strongly associated with Parkinson’s, gradually spread throughout the brain from areas implicated in the early stages.

Nolwen L Rey, PhD, a researcher at the Van Andel Research Institute, said: “We know that specific signs of Parkinson’s, including a loss of sense of smell, appear years before the onset of motor symptoms. Our new model replicates the phase that occurs long before diagnosis and, importantly, gives us a powerful tool to test novel interventions that might prevent the onset of Parkinson’s as we know it.”

The study demonstrated that clumps of alpha-synuclein eventually reach several additional brain regions, including the brainstem area that houses dopamine cells.

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