Healthy Living

Does the Immune System Play a Role in Parkinson's?

Does the Immune System Play a Role in Parkinson's?

Key Takeaways

  • Professors have pinpointed a protein abnormality called the "SOD1 fingerprint". It is located in regions of neuronal loss from the brains of those who have Parkinson's disease.
  • Research has found substantial evidence supporting a hypothesis that claims that the body's immune system plays a significant role in how Parkinson's disease develops.
  • A new specialized yoga class can help people with Parkinson's disease.

60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease every year, with ten million people around the world suffering from it (http://www.pdf.org/parkinson_statistics). And unfortunately, there is no known cure yet. On the other hand, there are treatment plans that patients can follow to control the symptoms and prevent the disease from worsening. And thanks to organizations and research, new studies and evidence bring us closer to finding a cure. So if you're wondering about the latest news on Parkinson's disease, then read on to learn about new progression and how technology and scientists are soon discovering more about the illness and how it can be treated.

What's New: Parkinson's Disease

For the past few years, many studies and research initiatives have been done to seek a cure or to discover more about the causes and symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Here are some of the new pieces of information medical professionals have gathered this year:

The Discovery of the SOD1 Protein: May 22, 2017

Professors have pinpointed a protein abnormality called the "SOD1 fingerprint". It is located in regions of neuronal loss from the brains of those who have Parkinson's disease. This research was led by Associate Professor Kay Double, which was published in Acta Neuropathologica. This common protein abnormality may come from both oxidative stress and a copper deficiency, with the loss coming specifically in the vulnerable parts of brains of those with Parkinson's disease.

The SOD1 protein may also suggest degenerative pathways in both Parkinson's disease and ALS. Through the discovery of the SOD1 fingerprint, it gives better hope to patients with Parkinson's disease, as therapies that target the SOD1 protein have helped improve the motor function and survival time of those who have ALS, which further progresses more trials in the disease. And since it has been discovered to help treat Parkinson's disease, this therapy will hopefully be useful for patients.

New Mechanism Behind Parkinson's Disease: June 4, 2017

Researchers from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University found a particular protein that hinders the transmission of neuronal signals, an essential factor for higher-brain functioning. This is the vesicle endocytosis, which is located in the nerve terminal. Once the vesicles are heavily used, and endocytosis is inhibited, the high-frequency transmission would break down more quickly than it normally should.

When looked at from a deeper aspect, alpha-synuclein would inhibit endocytosis, which researchers have discovered would end up having toxic effects because of the over-assembly of microtubules. The over-assembly would get in the way of endocytosis, resulting in the loss of normal functioning, as well as the death of neurons. While there is still no treatment available for preventing the over-assembly of microtubules, Professor Takashi says that they are getting close to making a discovery. And with knowledge of the target and mechanism, there will need to be more studies made on the microtubules and why they over-assemble. This is to create an effective treatment to stop it.

What's Behind Parkinson's: A Confused Immune System: June 22, 2017

Research has found substantial evidence supporting a hypothesis that claims that the body's immune system plays a significant role in how Parkinson's disease develops. While this discovery isn't clear about whether or not the immune system is the cause or worsens Parkinson's, it's helpful in learning about new forms of diagnosing it early and reducing the intensity of the disease's symptoms. The hypothesis of how the immune system plays a huge role in Parkinson's disease is almost a century old. In 1925, the immune system was blamed for causing damage to the brain cells, though the hypothesis wasn't given much attention. But in 2014, researchers from the Columbia University Medical Center have found markers called MHC proteins, which were found in the dopamine neurons, and that the T-cells found in the immune system would perceive and attack brain cells.

The latest study was led by both CUMC and the researchers from La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology. It shows that the soluble protein aggregating in the substantial-nigra's cells (alpha-synuclein) may trigger the immune system, which in turn, would attack brain cells and cause the symptoms of Parkinson's disease to progress. The study consisted of 100 people, taking blood samples from 67 volunteers that have Parkinson's and 36 who don't. The blood samples were then mixed with proteins located in the nerve cells, which also include alpha-synuclein, the ones that accumulate in brain cells of those who have the disease.

The control subjects' blood had a little reaction, while the other 67 samples have an immune response, which shows that white blood cells from the immune system were already exposed to the protein. So, it looks like the T-cells think that dopamine, which produces brain cells, are foreign because of the buildup of the proteins, which end up attacking the cells and causing Parkinson's.

Genetic studies also link the disease with a variation in genes which are active in immune response. It adds more proof that the mistaken T-cells are the culprit in destroying the brain's nerve cells. More research must be done to get convincing evidence that pools together genetics, bacteria, and immune responses as the cause of the disease. That way, medical professionals will be able to identify the disease sooner, and even slow or stop the brain cells from destruction (https://nwpf.org/stay-informed/news/2017/06/a-confused-immune-system-could-be-behind-parkinsons-disease/).

New Yoga Class for People With Parkinson's Disease: July 9, 2017

Tim Hague Sr., the founder of U-Turn Parkinson's, has created a specialized yoga class that can help people with Parkinson's disease. This type of yoga helps with gentle strength training, fighting off the stiffness that Parkinson's disease can cause. The yoga class, called Yoga Parkinson's, will be led by Samantha Squire. Through practicing specialized yoga for Parkinson's disease, patients will be able to experience fewer tremors and more peace and mindfulness, which results in better strength and control of their bodies. U-Turn will begin its first yoga class this July 2017, which was the next step from Rock Steady Boxing, an international boxing program that helps with strength and mobility.

Early Progression of Parkinson's Disease Might Prompt Problems With Vision: July 11, 2017

Research has shown that the loss of neurons shows non-motor symptoms, which are usually undiagnosed as patients aren't aware with how the disease is linked to the symptoms they have been experiencing. Because of this, these signs are left untreated. One of these non-motor symptoms includes visual problems. Some of these changes include the inability to recognize specific colors, a visual alteration, and the lessening of blinking, which results to the dryness of eyes. These visual changes precede the motor symptoms by as far as a decade. This discovery resulted from a study of a group of newly diagnosed Parkinson's patients without treatment and a group of 20 people who do not have the disease. Brain scans show that the patients have had abnormalities in the past, specifically within the visual system brain structures. This study was published online in the journal Radiology on July 11, 2017.

To assess visual problems in patients can be helpful in differentiating the Parkinson's disease to follow the progression and monitor it with drug treatment. Further research must be made, though it's another step closer to helping prevention of Parkinson's.

In Conclusion

Learning about Parkinson's disease is imperative. Not only will it help you take the preventive measures, but you learn new ways on how to take care of those who have Parkinson's, or to manage it yourself if you have it. As long as you stay updated with the latest news, you'll be able to track the progress and be the first to know if there are new discoveries and studies to be made.