One step closer to a cure

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Author: Parkinson's Life editorsPublished: 22 March 2018

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Brain, neurons

Researchers from Kyung Hee University, Seoul, South Korea believe they are closer to finding a cure for Parkinson’s through their research into protein DJ-1.

The research, which will be published in US journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’, has found evidence to suggest the protein impairs nerve cells within the body which relate to the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease.

Although the protein had previously been linked to the development of Parkinson’s, its exact role remained unknown.

Professor Sung Hyun Kim, who led the study, said: “We will research the relationship between synapse function and the expressive actions of animals with Parkinson’s, and establish the related network. If the study goes well, we will be able to infer the cause of Parkinson’s.”

For a collection of the latest Parkinson’s-related research papers please click here.

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  • Flora Hill

    To me this seems unlikely to lead to a cure for Parkinson’s disease (PD). The animal models don’t have PD. They have a lesion in the part of the brain that produces dopamine. This results in the symptoms of PD, but not the actual disease process.

    The actual PD disease process is the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra. This neuronal loss is caused by oxidative stress caused by dopamine metabolites. When the excess of released dopamine in not stored in storage vesicles, it is metabolised in oxidative compounds. These oxidation products are damaging the dopaminergic neurons.

    In healthy neurons excess dopamine is transported to storage vesicles by alpha-synuclein. Alpha-synuclein is the protein that is the main constituent of Lewy bodies, which are the hallmark of PD.

    Alpha-synuclein in the cytosol of dopaminergic neurons needs a ‘chaperone’ to remain in its active unfolded state. Without sufficient chaperones, alpha-synuclein assumes a configuration which is prone to aggregation, resulting in the reduction of bioavailable alpha-synuclein, and thus a reduction in the capacity to transport excess dopamine to storage vesicles. The dopamine that is not stored in these vesicles metabolises in the oxidative compounds that damage the dopaminergic cells.

    Countries in which curcuma (turmeric), a chaperone for alpha-synuclein, is part of the daily diet, have a lower incidence of PD, than Western European ones. Curative strategies for PD should aim to develop chaperones for alpha-synuclein.

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