An Israeli-British-German study published on the 5th June in the journal Acta Neuropathologica revealed a discovery that could eventually enable faster detection and treatment of the degenerative disease Parkinson’s.
Parkinson’s disease is a debilitating neurodegenerative disease which affects everything from speech, posture and gait to digestion, sleep, impulse control and cognition. Data shows that close to ten million worldwide are affected. Though there exists a few treatment to alleviate symptoms, there is no cure as of yet.
Symptoms of the disease usually develop slowly over the years. As a result, according to Tel Aviv University, by the time a patient is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, 50% to 80% of the cells in the part of the brain responsible for coordinating movement, are already dead, due to the build-up of the alpha-synuclein protein, a hallmark of the disease.
The discovery by the Tel Aviv University (TAU), working with colleagues from the UK and Germany, would enable early detection of the aggregation of this toxic alpha-synuclein protein. This was achieved using super-resolution microscopy and advanced analysis, explains Professor Uri Ashery, co-author of the study and head of TAU’s Sagol School of Neuroscience and TAU’s George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences.
Co-author Dr. Dana Bar-On of the Sagol School of Neuroscience clarifies that if the aggregation of the protein can be tracked in the early stages, physicians will be able to monitor the effects of drugs on this aggregation. In fact, it was found that administering a new drug, anle138b, on diseased mice, for several months, led to a “very significant” improvement in their pathology. Professor Ashery explains that this discovery is an important move towards effectively treating Parkinson’s as it could enable doctors “to track and treat the disease before symptoms are even detected”.
Professor Uri Ashery says that the next step is to be able to detect the build-up of this protein in a non-invasive manner in human patients with Parkinson’s disease, but that the feasibility of this aim will depend on “the amount of investment” that will now be put into the matter.