A Common Link In Neurodegenerative Disease

Researchers have discovered a common mechanism leading to neuron death in Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and Huntington's

Many neurodegenerative disease have separate causes and mechanisms, but involve a similar process of gradual, irreversible cell death. Scientists believe that while many of these mechanisms may be separate, if they can find common ground certain treatments may prove beneficial in multiple diseases. 

Research has emerged suggesting that there is in fact a common mechanism centred on how these misfolded proteins invade cells. When these proteins enter a cell, according to research at Loyola University, they appear to enter small compartments called vesicles. These are encased in a membrane, and can be used to store or send material. These damaging proteins seem to disrupt and break these vesicles; in turn leading to more clumping and signalling to the cell to break down these damaged vesicle structures, alongside the proteins. However, these neurons are unable to effectively digest and remove these dysfunctional proteins - leading to a progressive clumping of material that can't be removed. This understandably leads to severe disruption of the cell's normal functions and eventually causes death. 

Ruptured vesicles containing alpha-synuclein protein (green) create large clumped structures resembling those seen in Parkinson's disease. Credit: Loyola University Chicago.

Ruptured vesicles containing alpha-synuclein protein (green) create large clumped structures resembling those seen in Parkinson's disease. Credit: Loyola University Chicago.

The cell’s attempt to degrade the proteins is somewhat like a stomach trying to digest a clump of nails. A possible therapy would involve boosting a brain cell’s ability to degrade a clump of proteins and damaged vesicles. If we could do this in one disease, it’s a good bet the therapy would be effective in the other two diseases”

Hope for new treatment?

While this is certainly an interesting connection, right now it remains to be seen whether such a finding can be capitalised on in regards to developing a therapy effective in all 3. However, the fact that all these types of proteins implicated in each disease impact on vesicles does suggest there may be common mechanisms we can target that may prove beneficial in all. 

Read more at NeuroScienceNews