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AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 28, Number 2, 2019

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Study Identifies Promising Target for Parkinson’s Intervention

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An international research team led by scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham has identified a potential target for therapeutics that might help slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

In findings, the researchers compare different forms of alpha-synuclein and specifically point to beta-sheet fibrillar forms of the alpha-synuclein protein as a promising target.

Alpha-synuclein is a protein found in the human brain. While its role in a healthy brain is not completely understood, science does know that, in conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Lewy body dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, alpha-synuclein clumps into aggregates that damage neurons. The UAB-led research team looked at several different structural forms of alpha-synuclein to determine which was most responsible for damage to the brain, and thus the most likely target for therapeutic intervention.

“We’ve long known that the aggregation or clumping of alpha-synuclein plays an important role in diseases such as Parkinson’s,” said Laura Volpicelli-Daley, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Neurology in the School of Medicine. “Our funding agencies — the Michael J. Fox Foundation and support from the UAB Udall Center for Excellence in Parkinson’s Disease Research, have made study of alpha-synuclein a priority. We think that, by preventing alpha-synuclein from forming aggregates, we can prevent progression of the disease.”   

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