New research, published in the scientific journal Nature Communications, reveals a ground-breaking ‘vital step’ towards finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease.
Cambridge University scientists have developed a new understanding of the several roles alpha-synuclein performs – a significant brain protein.
One focal role the protein plays is when it is present at small gaps between neurons or nerve cells. These gaps are called synapses, and the protein enables them to communicate effectively with one another.
Alpha-synuclein causes Parkinson’s disease when it functions abnormally and creates clumps called Lewy bodies inside of neurons, which causes them to work less productively and ultimately die.
Over the years, treatments and drugs for Parkinson’s helped patients manage the disease, but could not reverse the effects as scientists did not know how the protein functions ordinarily. Now they do.
Currently, more than 10 million people worldwide live with Parkinson’s disease. It is the fastest-growing neurological condition with symptoms of gait and balance problems, slowness, and extreme stiffness of the limbs and most widely known, tremors, particularly in the hands.
The disease is commonly associated with older age groups, but people as young as 29 have received diagnoses, such as Back to the Future actor Michael J. Fox.
University of Cambridge Professor, Michele Vendruscolo, revealed to Sky News that “to intervene and correct [alpha-synuclein’s] behaviour, we first need to know what it does normally so that when we correct its behaviour we don’t interfere with its normal behaviour.
“Of course there are going to be many other steps of this type that are needed to eventually find a cure but this is a significant step forward in establishing the normal function of this protein.”
The Lead Author of the paper and Research Fellow at St John’s College, University of Cambridge, Dr Giuliana Fusco, said the “study could unlock more information about this debilitating neurodegenerative disorder that can leave people unable to walk and talk.
“If we want to cure Parkinson’s, first we need to understand the function of alpha-synuclein. This research is a vital step towards that goal.”
At Synergy Complex Care, we work with specialists and community teams to build a care and support plan around the symptoms, needs, wishes and chosen lifestyle of each client so that we can maximise independence and quality of life.
To find out more about our Personalised Care and Support Services, contact us today.
(All of our staff receive weekly Covid-19 testing and are trained to use personal protective equipment effectively.)