In a study from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, scientists discovered that a mutation in the misfolding protein that causes Parkinson’s disease offers protection against another fatal neurodegenerative disorder—multiple system atrophy (MSA), which is caused by the same misfolding protein.
The research findings move the lead author one step closer toward her goal of using a personalized medicine approach to help people suffering from one of these devastating, difficult-to-diagnose diseases, for which few—if any—effective treatments currently exist.
The researchers work under the prion hypothesis—that a misfolded protein propagates throughout the body to cause neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), in addition to Parkinson’s and MSA.
The different shapes a protein misfolds into are called “strains.”
In previous research, the team created cells that expressed different mutations in α-synuclein that they know caused Parkinson’s disease.
They then infected those cells with a-synuclein they isolated from deceased MSA patient samples.
The next step was to try to replicate the findings in an animal model.
The researchers found that the E46K mutation similarly blocks MSA transmission in mice over a 475-day incubation period.
Mice that expressed the E46K mutation did not develop the disease when inoculated with MSA patient samples. However, mice inoculated with E46K a-synuclein did.
This shows that a single change in the genome can have a protective effect against MSA. The downside is it’s a mutation that we know causes Parkinson’s disease.
The team is continuing to tap into this discovery that there are single changes that they can make in the protein sequence to exert a protective effect against neurodegenerative disorders.
They say that this research would not be possible without the donations to brain banks by families who lost loved ones to these diseases.
If you care about Parkinson’s disease, please read studies about foods that may reduce death risk in Parkinson’s disease, and new drugs show promise in slowing down Parkinson’s disease.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies that common high blood pressure drugs may prevent Parkinson’s and dementia, and results showing people with Parkinson’s may benefit from 7 walking strategies.
The study was conducted by Amanda Woerman et al and published in PLOS Pathogens.
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