New Parkinson’s Strategy Could Slow Progress Of The Disease

By Rodney Rafols , Sep 30, 2016 03:30 AM EDT

Parkinson's disease attacks a person's nervous system and motor system. It is a progressive disease that has no known cure. Medical practitioners are trying to slow it down through rehabilitation. A new strategy is also being looked into that could slow the progress of Parkinson's disease.

Research is being done at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine to find a way to slow down Parkinson's disease. This involves a protein that enables a toxic aggregate in the brain, according to Science Daily. This protein, called a-synuclein, is found to clump which causes the death of dopamine-producing cells.

As a-synuclein clumps, it induces other normal a-synuclein proteins to act the same. These then move from one brain cell to another, forming a gradual chain reaction. Movement and other basic functions are first affected before other functions such as reasoning and memory, Dr. Ted Dawson, director for Cell Engineering at John Hopkins University School of Medicine and one of the study's leaders says.

The study on a-synuclein was first started by a researcher at Goethe University in Germany. Dr. Dawson was drawn into the research and began working with Dr. Valina Dawson, Professor of Neurology and Dr. Seok Ko, assistant Professor of Neurology. Together the group of doctors began to look at how the protein aggregates enter brain cells.

The first thing the scientists did was to find a certain protein that acted like a lock. This protein is known as a transmembrane receptor. They also found that certain a-synuclein aggregates could not enter human brain cells with human cancer cells that were grown in a laboratory, as Newswise reports. The objective then was to find out if genes from transmembrane receptors added to these cells would allow the a-synuclein aggregates in.

The research found that LAG3 in particular locked onto these aggregates. The study has found, in mice, that those that have LAG3 soon developed symptoms similar to Parkinson's, while mice that don't have LAG3 behaved normally. Antibodies that target LAG3 help protect the mice from Parkinson's, and Dr. Dawson says that antibodies that target LAG3 are now undergoing clinical trials.

Research continues on LAG3 and its relation to Parkinson's as well as to see if the antibodies being tested could be used later to fight it. As of now, the antibodies tested are for the immune system doing chemotherapy, but if they prove to be safe could later be applied to Parkinson's patients as well.

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