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Scientists One Step Closer To Parkinson's Drug

Long-term aim to develop treatments, block spread of damaged proteins in brain

GRAND RAPIDS — Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have published a study detailing how Parkinson's disease spreads through the brain. Experiments in rat models uncover a process previously used to explain mad cow disease, in which misfolded or “clumped” proteins travel from sick to healthy cells.

"A major unmet medical need is a therapy that slows disease progression," said Patrik Brundin M.D., Ph.D., Jay Van Andel Endowed Chair in Parkinson's Research at Van Andel Research Institute, head of the Neuronal Survival Unit at Lund University, and senior author of the study.

The mission of the Van Andel Research Institute is to understand neurodegenerative diseases and develop new therapies that are of benefit to patients and their caregivers. "We aim to better understand how Parkinson's pathology progresses and thereby uncover novel molecular targets for disease-modifying treatments."

Previous research demonstrates that a misfolded protein gradually appears in healthy neurons transplanted to the brains of Parkinson's patients.

In the current study, published this week in the Public Library of Science One, researchers were able to follow events in the recipient cell as it accepted the diseased protein. The experiments also show how the transferred proteins attract proteins in the diseased host cell, leading to abnormal folding or "clumping" inside the cells.

"This is a cellular process likely to lead to the disease process as Parkinson's progresses, and it spreads to an increasing number of brain regions as the patient gets sicker," said Elodie Angot, Ph.D., of Lund University's Neuronal Survival Unit, and lead author of the study.

Link to the study here: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0039465

For more information on the Van Andel Institute, visit www.vai.org.

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