Scientists make Parkinson’s find

Published: Thursday 26th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Scientists have developed a peptide which sticks to the protein that causes Parkinson’s disease – preventing it from killing brain cells.

The research, led by the University of Bath, highlights a potential new route for slowing the progress of the incurable disease, which affects around one in 1,500 people in the UK.

Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition where brain cells die, causing a lack of the chemical dopamine, which acts a messenger to coordinate movement.

In patients with Parkinson’s, a protein called a-synuclein becomes misshapen and stacks together to form long, toxic fibrils which kill the brain cells.

A team of scientists, with funding from Parkinson’s UK, designed a peptide that binds to the faulty a-synuclein and prevents fibrils from forming.

Their research, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, shows that the peptide halts the formation of fibrils in cells in vitro and stops them from dying.

The team believes that if the peptide were to be developed into a treatment it could help slow the progression of the degenerative disease.

Dr Jody Mason, from the university’s department of biology and biochemistry, said: “In Parkinson’s, the protein called a-synuclein changes shape and stacks with other misshapen proteins.

“We’ve discovered a peptide that binds to the sticky part of the a-synuclein and covers it up, which stops the fibril growing.

“If you think of the misshapen a-synuclein proteins as Lego bricks which stack to form a tower; our peptide acts like a smooth brick that sticks to the a-synuclein and stops the tower from growing any bigger.

“This research is in the early stages, but the results so far are very encouraging. We still need to overcome many obstacles before this can be developed into a drug treatment, but these findings could herald a new approach to treating Parkinson’s.”

Dr Neil Kad, from the University of Kent, a co-author on the study, added: “This Parkinson’s UK funded work shows how investment in basic science can open up new ways of studying and ultimately treating neurodegenerative disease.”

The researchers developed the 10 amino-acid peptide by screening a library of peptides based on the region of a-synuclein that is mutated in patients with early onset Parkinson’s.

It is the first time this part of the a-synuclein protein has been explored as a potential drug target.

Dr Arthur Roach, director of research and development at Parkinson’s UK, said: ” It’s a difficult task to develop treatments that can stop the toxic build-up of proteins in the brains of people with Parkinson’s. Supporting this kind of innovative research approach is starting to make imaginable today what seemed impossible a decade ago.

“We need more successes, like this one, if we are to develop drugs that could actually slow or stop the progression of Parkinson’s. At the moment no drugs are capable of doing this.”

The researchers hope to test the peptide in mammalian neurone cells and then develop it into a drug that is effective in humans.

“Intracellular screening of a peptide library to derive a potent peptide inhibitor of a-synuclein aggregation” is published online in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Published: Thursday 26th February 2015 by The News Editor

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