Conditions which may accelerate the spread of Parkinson's disease, and a potential means of enhancing naturally-occurring defences against neurodegenerative disorders, have been identified in two new studies. Two significant breakthroughs which could inform future treatments for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, have been announced by scientists.
The research, published in two separate studies this week, advances understanding of the early development of such disorders and how they might be prevented – in particular by identifying the biological areas and processes that could be pinpointed by future drugs. Both sets of results have emerged from collaborations between the research groups led by Chris Dobson, Tuomas Knowles and Michele Vendruscolo at the University of Cambridge, who focus on understanding protein “misfolding” diseases. These include Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, as well as numerous others. The first study provides evidence that the early spread of the protein aggregates associated with Parkinson's appears to happen at an accelerated rate in mildly acidic conditions. This suggests that particular compartments within brain cells, which are slightly more acidic than others, may turn out to be appropriate targets for future treatments fighting the disease. Meanwhile, researchers behind the second study appear to have identified a way in which the effectiveness of so-called molecular “chaperones”, responsible for limiting the damage caused by misfolded proteins, can be significantly enhanced.