AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 3, 2017

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Tracing the Path of Parkinson’s Disease Proteins

As neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease progress, misfolded proteins clump together in neurons, recruiting normal proteins in the cell to also misfold and aggregate. Cells in which this occurs degenerate and eventually die. Being able to keep an eye on the whereabouts of these corrupted proteins is key to unraveling these diseases and developing cures.

A team of researchers has now developed a set of tools to observe, monitor and quantify how misfolded proteins associated with Parkinson’s disease enter neurons in laboratory cultures and what happens to them once they’re inside. 

Alpha-synuclein is a protein found in all neurons, where it is thought to be involved in regulating neurotransmitter release. Incorrectly folded alpha-synuclein sticks together, forming fibrous deposits called amyloid fibrils. These are the main components of Lewy bodies, the masses seen in the neurons of Parkinson’s patients.

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