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Two major breakthroughs provide promise of important new therapeutic targets, Glenda Halliday (University of New South Wales, Randwick, Australia) believes.
We have moved from thinking of Parkinsons’s Disease (PD) as primarily or exclusively a disease of dopamine to recognising that it affects many brain systems. That gives us a better opportunity to look for causes and develop more effective therapies.
And we have identified alpha-synuclein as the major protein involved. We now understand far better what this protein does in the brain unaffected by PD, how it underlies PD pathology, and how it spreads in the brain – which gives us the opportunity to influence that process.
The crucial new concept is that alpha-synuclein moves between cells. It seems to have a role both intracellularly – allowing us the possibility of targeting relevant intracellular pathways and organelles -- and extracellularly, which gives us additional opportunities for intervention.
Insights into pathology offer opportunities for neuroprotection
Parkinson’s Disease now seems more complicated, and to have a longer prodrome than once thought. The prime cause of pathology appears to spread from cell to cell.