According to an article in Newswire, medical professionals from the UK have discovered a number of protein structures that are associated with Parkinson’s disease. The hope is that further research into these structures will allow for the development of treatments for the disease.
About Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder that affects the central nervous system (CNS). It is characterized by its effect on movement through five different stages. As the disease progresses, severity increases. Stage one is characterized by subtle tremors on one side of the body. In stage two symptoms are more noticeable, with tremors and rigidity on both sides of the body. Stage three brings loss of balance and slowed movement. Stage four makes it impossible for one to live independently. Stage five is the most severe, as patients cannot stand or walk. Hallucinations and delusions are common symptoms of this stage.
Parkinson’s disease occurs due to the death of motor neurons, some of which produce dopamine. Dopamine is important in the transmittance of messages to the muscles from the brain, so the loss of dopamine results in the loss of motor functions. Abnormal brain activity occurs when these neurons are lost. Doctors do not know why these motor neurons die, but they do suspect a few factors that play a role, such as genetics, environmental factors like toxins, and Lewy bodies.
About the Protein Structures
Misfolded proteins are a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease. The protein alpha-synuclein (αS) becomes disfigured and clumps together in the brains of those with the disease, forming Lewy bodies. The cells that create dopamine are then killed off by these clumps, resulting in the characteristic symptoms.
Medical professionals have known for a long time that αS plays a role in Parkinson’s, but all studies have been conducted in test tubes in labs. This makes it difficult to truly study the protein, as it acts differently than it would in a human brain.
Fortunately, the scientists who discovered the new protein structures are beginning to investigate how αS interacts with phospholipids. It is this investigation that led to the discovery of the protein structures. The fibers were in an undiscovered shape and very large. Once these structures are studied and understood, the next step will be creating treatments to combat the structures that cause Parkinson’s.
This knowledge is a huge step in understanding this condition and creating viable treatments for it.