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The Parkinson\'s disease progresses through cell-to-cell transfer of abnormal proteins

The recent study at Lund University, Sweden, showed that the misfolded alpha-synuclein in the neurons of people with Parkinson's disease is transmitted from cell to cell. Moreover, the abnormal protein triggers the accumulation of alpha-synuclein in the recipient cell too.

Thus the pathology is spreading in the way similar to the spreading of prions in BSE (mad cow disease). This causes the chain reaction of the cell death in the brain. The discovery suggests the new therapeutic approach based on preventing transfer of the misfolded proteins from one neuron to another.

The team of scientists from Denmark, France and Portugal assumed alpha-synuclein transmission from one neuron to another after studying the transplantation of healthy brain cells to patients with Parkinson's disease. Eventually the damaged proteins were detected in the transplanted neurons too.

The hypothesis was tested in experiments with cell culture. Besides, it was proved by the transplantations of healthy neurons to Parkinson's disease model mice. In six months abnormal alpha-synuclein was found in the animals’ brains. The investigation showed that aggregated proteins are able to cross cellular membranes of the healthy neurons.

This process underlies the development of neurodegenerative diseases. Now the scientists have better understanding of the pathology spreading in the neurons of patients with Parkinson's disease. It gives new opportunities to the treatment of the disease. Investigators hope to find the methods able to stop the transfer of abnormal proteins from cell to cell. It will slow down the disease progression and ease its clinical course.