Slowing the progression of Parkinson’s disease might be possible with a man-made peptide — a chain of amino acids — that can stop the production of faulty protein fibers that interfere with brain cells that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine.
The reason why the method may work is that the loss of dopamine cells causes Parkinson’s, so by stopping the destruction of brain cells that create dopamine, it may be possible to thwart the spread of the disease.
Jody Mason, PhD, of the University of Bath, and colleagues discovered that their peptide attaches to misshapen cell proteins known as α- synuclein, they reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Untouched, these proteins then clump together to form long, toxic fibrils that impact the way brain cells function.
“"If you think of the misshapen α-synuclein proteins as Lego bricks which stack to form a tower, our peptide acts like a smooth brick that sticks to the α-synuclein and stops the tower from growing any bigger,” Mason said in a statement.
The peptide was developed by searching for peptides that match the part of α- synuclein that is mutated in those with early-onset Parkinson’s. The team said that their study indicates that the faulty part of the protein could be a potential drug target.
The next steps for the researchers are to test the peptide in mammalian brain cells, with the hope of eventually developing the peptide into a drug for humans.
New research suggests it may be possible to slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease using a man-made peptide that stops the formation of faulty protein fibrils that kill the brain cells that produce dopamine.
Estimates suggest up to 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s disease — a progressive neurological disorder caused by the loss of brain cells that release dopamine, a chemical that is important for conveying messages that control movement.
The main reason behind the death of dopamine-producing cells in patients with Parkinson’s disease is thought to be a fault in a common cell protein called α-synuclein. When faulty, the protein forms the wrong shape and clumps into long toxic fibrils that stop the cells functioning properly.