Parkinson's Discovery Will Help Hunt For Therapies
UNMC Announces Parkinson's Breakthrough
KETV 7 Omaha Wed, 09 Jan 2008 10:07 AM PST
Back-to-back studies raise new awareness on vaccine strategies
(Traducción automatica al español)
OMAHA, Neb., -- Some Omaha researchers announced a breakthrough in Parkinson's disease on Wednesday.Doctors at the University of Nebraska Medical Center said they have unlocked significant new insights into the cause and progression of Parkinson's.
Monnie Lindsay said she was diagnosed with Parkinson's on Jan. 10, 1994. It changed her life."It's like living life in locked box -- locked inside your own body," Lindsay said.
Lindsay and UNMC researchers said they hope to unlock that box with their research.
The latest study identified how the body's own immune system can actually speed up the progression of the disease, which is something that was not recognized before."A new means to not only understand the disease, but how people with Parkinson's disease actually progress," said Dr. Howard Gendelman.
"This progress is marked in years, time and patience before there is an effective vaccine."
The breakthrough is promising for patients."It's a very, very exciting development for the Parkinson's community," said Lindsay.
Parkinson's disease results from nerve cell death in specific areas of the brain, resulting in substantive reductions in dopamine. The dopamine losses result in tremors, slow movement, rigidity and difficulties in movement. The cause of PD is not known, but mutations in a brain protein called alpha-synuclein exist in families with genetically linked disease, a news release from UNMC said.
Alpha-synuclein normally aids brain function by helping cells communicate with one another. In PD, the normal function of alpha synuclein is changed as a result of local inflammatory responses when the protein is modified.
In a series of back-to-back studies, researchers at UNMC found that modified alpha-synuclein not only weakens its support function, but most importantly, mobilizes the body's own immune defense mechanisms to destroy itself and to accelerate disease.
In so doing, the protein turns itself into a conductor of accelerated neurodegenerative responses.
The work, which was published in four scientific journals, will help scientists look for new therapies for the incurable disease that affects nearly 1 million Americans.People are more likely to develop the disease as they grow older, statistic show.
Men are more likely to get Parkinson's than women, and having relatives who have Parkinson's increases the risk.Others who are at greater risk include people involved with agricultural work, women with declining estrogen levels and those who have suffered head injuries.
The discoveries were made possible by the work of two graduate students, UNMC said. Ashley Reynolds and Eric Benner, Ph.D., and postdoctoral fellow, Rebecca Banerjee, Ph.D., worked in the laboratory of Howard Gendelman, M.D., chairman of pharmacology and experimental neuroscience and director of the Center for Neurovirology and Neurodegenerative Disorders at UNMC.