Scientists  correct motor symptoms in Parkinson's

Scientists  correct motor symptoms in Parkinson's
Credit: WedMD

A research team in Finland has succeeded in correcting the motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in mice. Since Parkinson's disease is practically always diagnosed only after motor symptoms appear, these study results are quite promising in regards to treatment.

Up to two per cent of people over 60 contract Parkinson's. The disease causes severe motor symptoms, as it destroys the nerve cells in the brain's motor areas. The exact cause of the disease is not known, but during the past 15 years research has focused on a protein called α- synuclein, which has several functions in the brain areas that regulate motor functions. This protein is prone to mis-folded forms, which can clump together as aggregates. In PD, aggregated α- synuclein proteins accumulate within nerve cells, damaging them. They can also propagate from one cell to the next and spread the impairment of nerve cells in the brain.

Researchers had previously known that the PREP enzyme, which occurs naturally in the body, can increase the formation of harmful α- synuclein aggregates in the brain. Furthermore, researchers wanted to determine the connection that the enzyme and protein have to the symptoms of Parkinson's disease by blocking Prolyl Endopeptiade/ Prolyl oligopeptidase (PREP) in the brain.  In the study, the group  set up a mouse model for Parkinson's disease, in which the brain's motor areas were made to produce large amounts of α- synuclein. This led to the accumulation of mis-folded proteins in the brains of the mice as expected, resulting in the associated motor symptoms.

The researchers began treatment with a PREP blocker only when the mice began manifesting clear motor symptoms. The situation would be similar in a human case of PD which is typically diagnosed only once the symptoms have appeared. Researchers were astounded by the rapid results.

"After as little as two weeks of treatment, the motor symptoms in the mice had practically disappeared. And they did not reappear until after the experiment was over,“ commented the senior author of the study. A detailed analysis established that the PREP blocker treatment had stopped the motor areas from becoming further damaged and had cleared the brain of nearly all accumulations of α- synuclein.

"We have a long way to go from animal models to human trials, but these results are extremely encouraging in terms of future drug development,“ commented the senior author.