U of G Research May Lead to New Parkinson’s Disease Treatments

A new discovery by University of Guelph researchers may ultimately help in devising new therapies and improving quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease.

The researchers hope their findings will lead to drugs that halt the progression of this neurodegenerative disease, says Morgan Stykel, a PhD candidate and first author of a paper published in the journal Cell Reports.

Parkinson’s disease is the world’s fastest-growing neurodegenerative disease and Canada has some of the world’s highest rates, according to Parkinson Canada. Its exact cause is unknown.

Current therapies only treat symptoms rather than halting the disease, says Dr. Scott Ryan, a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology who led the study.

Parkinson’s disease can be triggered by the misfolding of a protein called alpha-synuclein that accumulates in one part of the brain. The disease causes loss of nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine, a chemical messenger that helps control motor function.

The misfolded protein eventually spreads to other parts of the brain, impairing areas responsible for other functions such as mood and cognition.

The U of G team found that the affected synuclein inactivates a second protein that normally targets misfolded proteins for degradation. The researchers showed that reactivating the latter protein enables cells to clear the misfolded proteins and prevent disease spread.

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