Parkinson's Disease: New Findings Help Prevent Effects of Parkinson's

First Posted: Oct 13, 2015 06:14 AM EDT

A recent study found that non-inheritable Parkinson's disease may be caused by functional changes in the immune regulating gene Interferon-beta (IFNβ) and with a new treatment, the disease can be prevented, according to a news release.

The research team from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark found that treatment with Interferon-beta (IFNβ-gene) therapy successfully prevented neuronal death and disease effects in an experimental model of Parkinson's disease. (PD)

An average of seven to 10 million people are living with PD, which is an incurable and progressive disease, where the nervous system affects movements and cognitive functions in the human body. More than half of PD patients eventually develop signs of dementia, which is similar to Alzheimer's disease, according to the researchers.

The human brain consists of 100 billion neurons which control activities in the body. The immune gene Interferon-beta (IFNβ) plays a vital role in keeping neurons healthy, according to Professor Shohreh Issazadeh-Navikas and a team of researchers at Biotech Research and Innovation Centre (BRIC), University of Copenhagen.

They found that IFNβ is vital for neurons ability to recycle waste proteins. Without this, the waste proteins accumulate in disease-associated structures called Lewy bodies and eventually the neurons die, according to assistant professor Patrick Ejlerskov, the first author of this study.

The researchers found that that mice missing Interferon-beta (IFNβ) developed Lewy bodies in some parts of the brain, which controls body movement and restoration of memory. Subsequently they developed disease and showed clinical signs similar to patients with PD and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), according to the researchers.

Hereditary gene mutations are known for their role in familial PD. The study from BRIC covers non familial PD, which makes up the majority (90-95 percent) of patients suffering from PD. Issazadeh-Navikas claimed that the new knowledge opens new therapeutic possibilities.

"When we introduced IFNβ-gene therapy, we could prevent neuronal death and disease development. Our hope is that this knowledge will enable development of more effective treatment of PD," said Issazadeh-Navikas.

The researchers' next step is to gain a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which Interferon-beta (IFNβ) protects neurons and thereby prevents movement disorders and dementia, according to the news release.

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