Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Login
Advanced Search

Search for
BioNews

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook


 


 

Study counters Parkinson's disease gene theory

25 March 2013

By Helen Brooks

Appeared in BioNews 698

An experimental approach to treating Parkinson's disease may need to be reconsidered following evidence suggesting that it may make patients worse.

Alpha-synuclein is a protein that is a focus for research as it is a major component of Lewy bodies - clumps of protein that develop in nerve cells in the brain and that are found in all Parkinson's disease cases.

Mutations in the alpha-synuclein gene have been identified as a cause of familial Parkinson's disease for a very small minority of patients and the protein was thought by many to play role in the development of the disorder more generally.

Several pharmaceutical companies, including Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, who helped fund this research, have been developing drugs designed to reduce levels of alpha-synuclein. A vaccine targeting alpha-synuclein is currently in early clinical trials.

In the study, researchers in the USA followed 1,098 Parkinson's disease patients for up to 15 years. Patients' DNA was sequenced to determine the presence of gene variants that control how much alpha-synuclein nerves produce. They then looked at the association of these gene variants with patient outcomes.

As expected, high levels of alpha-synuclein increased the risk of developing Parkinson's disease. But patients who had the disease and had lower levels of alpha-synuclein were more likely to suffer more severe motor symptoms, such as tremor and impaired movement, and decline in cognitive skills.

Patients who produced the least alpha-synuclein had a 23 percent greater risk of becoming wheelchair-dependent or developing dementia than other patients.

'Our research suggests therapies that seek to suppress alpha-synuclein in Parkinson's disease may actually accelerate the disease process and increase the risk for developing severe physical disability and dementia', said lead author Dr Demetrius Maraganore, chairman of neurology at NorthShore University Health System.

So far the research has only been presented at a conference, the American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting, and not in a peer-reviewed journal. However, Dr Maraganore says, 'it is our responsibility to release these data because [experimental alpha-synuclein-countering treatments] may have long-term harmful effects'.

Previous research by the same laboratory group showed that people who inherit a DNA mutation increasing alpha-synuclein production have a 50 percent greater chance of developing Parkinson's disease than those that do not.

Dr Maraganore suggests that alpha-synuclein is a protein that is critical for healthy nerve function, so that too little or too much at different points in time can be harmful.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Genetic Evidence for a Dual and Opposing Effect of alpha-Synuclein Expression in Preclinical Versus Clinical Parkinson's Disease
American Academy of Neurology | 20 March 2013
 
Science Daily (press release) | 20 March 2013
 
Bloomberg News | 21 March 2013
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

10 November 2014 - by Rhys Baker 
Researchers have reversed the effects of Parkinson's disease in rats, using human embryonic stem cells...
20 October 2014 - by Dr Victoria Burchell 
A drug can reverse the effects of two Parkinson's disease-causing mutations in fruit flies, a study reports...
10 January 2014 - by Dr Kimberley Bryon-Dodd 
Patients in a clinical trial to treat Parkinson's disease with a form of gene therapy have showed signs of significant improvements in their motor-function, according to a report published in the Lancet...
02 December 2013 - by Matthew Thomas 
People with a particular genetic mutation may face greater risks of developing Parkinson's disease if exposed to certain pesticides, according to scientists...
15 July 2013 - by Matthew Thomas 
A drug has been found to suppress the gene underlying a rare but fatal disease, according to results from an early-stage clinical trial...

16 April 2012 - by Dr Kimberley Bryon-Dodd 
A woman with Parkinson's disease is reportedly able to write again for the first time in 15 years after receiving pioneering gene therapy at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge. Mrs Shelia Roy took part in an early stage clinical trial of ProSavin - a treatment developed by biopharmaceutical company, Oxford BioMedica....
23 August 2010 - by Dr Lux Fatimathas 
Genetic defects in the immune system may be associated with Parkinson's disease, according to a recent study published in Nature Genetics. The genome wide association study (GWAS) is the first to link mutations in a gene in the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) region, which is known to be involved in immunity, to Parkinson's...
23 November 2009 - by Dr Charlotte Maden 
New investigations into the genetics of Parkinson's disease have identified five new genes associated with the sporadic form of the disease. The worldwide collaborative effort, published in Nature Genetics last week, gives new insight into the progression of the devastating disease that affects so many people....
14 August 2006 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
US researchers have identified a genetic risk factor that they say could account for three per cent of the cause of Parkinson's disease (PD). The team, based at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, has shown that people who inherit a DNA change that increases production...

HAVE YOUR SAY
Be the first to have your say.

You need to or  to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


- click here to enquire about using this story.

Published by the Progress Educational Trust

CROSSING FRONTIERS

Public Conference
London
8 December 2017

Speakers include

Professor Azim Surani

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge

Sally Cheshire

Professor Guido Pennings

Katherine Littler

Professor Allan Pacey

Dr Sue Avery

Professor Richard Anderson

Dr Elizabeth Garner

Dr Andy Greenfield

Dr Anna Smajdor

Dr Henry Malter

Vivienne Parry

Dr Helen O'Neill

Dr César Palacios-González

Philippa Taylor

Fiona Fox

Sarah Norcross

Sandy Starr


BOOK HERE

Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation