UK research breakthrough for all neurodegenerative conditions
9 May 2012
UK researchers have made a breakthrough that could lead
to new treatments for a range of neurodegenerative
conditions, including Parkinson's
This innovative research offers a completely new approach to tackling nerve cell death for conditions such as Parkinson's.
Dr Kieran Breen, our director of research
The new study, published in the
scientific journal Nature, may have found the key to stop nerve
cell death and stop conditions such as Parkinson's in their
In neurodegenerative conditions, like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's
and Huntington's, vital nerve cells in the brain are lost.
And in each of these conditions proteins which are the wrong
shape or 'misfolded' also build up.
These misfolded proteins are thought to be involved in nerve
cell death, so tackling them has been a major focus of
Turning off nerve cell death
In this new study, researchers at the University of Leicester
studied mice with prion disease - a condition where misfolded
proteins spread through the brain - to work out how and why
this triggers nerve cell death.
They found that as misfolded proteins build up in
the brain, cells respond by shutting down the production of all new
This works well when cells are infected with a virus, as
starving the virus of proteins helps stop it spreading.
But shutting down protein production for too long also
starves the nerve cells. Without the proteins they need to function
they stop working and die - leading to conditions such as
The team found that when they stopped cells from shutting down
their protein production they were able to turn off nerve cell
death, and the mice survived for longer.
Towards new treatments
Dr Kieran Breen, our director of research and innovation
(pictured right), comments:
research offers a completely new approach to tackling nerve
cell death for conditions such as Parkinson's.
"Instead of trying to stop the build-up of damaging proteins
inside the brain, the researchers have shown that it's possible
to change the way the cells react and possibly prevent
"This research is promising but still very much in the
"While Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative conditions do
share similarities, such as the build-up of misfolded proteins,
there are also key differences. So, these ideas will need to be
fully explored and tested in each condition."