A Molecule Behind Parkinson’s?

Parkinson’s Disease is one of the most devastating progressive diseases in existence. Those living with this condition can expect to encounter serious problems such as tremors, impaired balance and slowed movements. To date, there is no cure for Parkinson’s; but what if a single molecule could change this fact?

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According to researchers at the University of Utah, this could well be the case. To understand how this theory works, it’s helpful to briefly cover how Parkinson’s develops. The culprit behind Parkinson’s is believed by some to be a protein known as alpha-synuclein, a molecule that actually plays a key role in the function of the brain. Specifically, alpha-synuclein enables the nerve cells within the brain (known as neurons) to transmit messages to one another.

Unfortunately, in some individuals these proteins act rather abnormally, and clump together in bunches inside of neurons. This causes the formation of slender fibers known as fibrils, which in turn causes dopamine-producing neurons to die off. When this occurs, the brain may become afflicted by Parkinson’s or other chronic cognitive conditions.

The A Team

Given this theory, the University of Utah team decided to use a molecule to inhibit the growth of alpha-synuclein. This was not an easy task, as over 155,000 chemical candidates were reviewed as a potential suitor.

Finally, the authors came across a molecule known as A-443654. When put to the test, this molecule not only put the brakes on the production of alpha-synuclein protein, but also prevented alpha-synuclein genes from working at full capacity. Furthermore, the team noted that A-443654 could be able to shield cells from the harmful effects from existing clumps of alpha-synuclein.

While the team’s initial results are encouraging, further research is needed to determine if this molecule can be used as the basis of a reliable Parkinson’s treatment.

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