AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 28, Number 1, 2019


Targeting Parkinson's-linked Protein Could Neutralize 2 of the Disease's Causes

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Mouse and human cell studies confirm a common link between proteins and loss of dopamine-making brain cells 

Researchers report they have discovered how two problem proteins known to cause Parkinson’s disease are chemically linked, suggesting that someday, both could be neutralized by a single drug designed to target the link. The investigators’ new experiments build on evidence reported in 2011 that reducing the amount of a protein called PARIS in mice with the rodent equivalent of Parkinson’s disease protects against the loss of dopamine-making neurons. Since then, according to Ted Dawson, MD, PhD, professor of neurology and director of the Institute for Cell Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the research team suspected PARIS was linked chemically to other important Parkinson’s proteins. “In this study, we were able to confirm that suspicion,” he says. Dawson explains that a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease is the death of brain cells that produce the signaling molecule, or neurotransmitter, dopamine. Dopamine depletion, in turn, causes the classic symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, such as tremors, muscle stiffness and lack of muscle coordination. Mutations in the gene for a protein called Parkin are known to cause the death of dopamine neurons; less commonly, defects in another protein, PINK1, can have the same effect.

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