Degeneration of dopaminergic neurons is widely accepted as the first event that leads to Parkinson’s. But the new study suggests that a dysfunction

Newly discovered trigger of Parkinson’s upends common beliefs

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2023-09-18 16:00:07

Degeneration of dopaminergic neurons is widely accepted as the first event that leads to Parkinson’s. But the new study suggests that a dysfunction in the neuron’s synapses — the tiny gap across which a neuron can send an impulse to another neuron — leads to deficits in dopamine and precedes the neurodegeneration.

Parkinson’s disease affects 1% to 2% of the population and is characterized by resting tremor, rigidity and bradykinesia (slowness of movement). These motor symptoms are due to the progressive loss of dopaminergic neurons in the midbrain.

“We showed that dopaminergic synapses become dysfunctional before neuronal death occurs,” said lead author Dr. Dimitri Krainc, chair of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and director of the Simpson Querrey Center for Neurogenetics. “Based on these findings, we hypothesize that targeting dysfunctional synapses before the neurons are degenerated may represent a better therapeutic strategy.”

The study investigated patient-derived midbrain neurons, which is critical because mouse and human dopamine neurons have a different physiology and findings in the mouse neurons are not translatable to humans, as highlighted in Krainc's research recently published in Science.

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