AHC Research Snapshot: Medical School researcher looks to treat underlying causes of Parkinson’s disease
Researchers from the University of Minnesota Medical School have recently announced progress on two related studies examining the science behind Parkinson’s disease (PD).
The researchers hope these two studies will enhance understanding around the disease, potentially leading to the development of new drug therapies and treatment options for Parkinson’s patients.
In their first study, the U of M researchers examined one of the obvious causes of the progression of PD: dying neurons in the patient’s brain.
In the lab, researchers discovered a protein (alpha-synuclein) with the potential to build-up in the endoplasmic reticulum, the part of a neuron cell responsible for producing dopamine. Accumulation of alpha-synuclein can disrupt the neuron’s functionality and the cell eventually dies.
The second study looked deeper into the alpha-synuclein-induced deaths of neurons. Testing their initial research, the U of M team identified the mechanism behind the death of the cells. When they therapeutically targeted this pathway, they saw a delay in the progression of PD in an animal model.
“Ultimately, our initial study looks to reduce the stress placed on the endoplasmic reticulum, which we believe would delay the onset and/or progression of PD,” said U of M neuroscientist Michael Lee, Ph.D., lead investigator of both studies. “In our second study, we took the alpha-synuclein hypothesis and put it to the test in animal studies. We treated mice and rats with the compound Salubrinal, which alleviates stress in the endoplasmic reticulum and decreases the number of neuron cells that die.”
The mice treated with Salubrinal were found to be significantly healthier and have a longer lifespan than those treated with a placebo.
For Medical School researchers, these studies not only show that chronic stress placed on the endoplasmic reticulum can lead to the onset of Parkinson’s disease, but that we may have the ability to slow or prevent the progression of the disease altogether.