Researchers have identified processes in the brain that could allow them to diagnose Parkinson’s disease at an early stage, develop treatments and prevent its spread.
They hope that eventually they can determine if young people are susceptible to the disease before they show symptoms and focus on slowing its progression.
“Currently, most treatments are aimed at preventing the disease from getting worse rather than preventing it,” said Dr. Shani Stern, lecturer at the Sagol Department of Neurobiology at the University of Haifa.
“If we can recognize the potential for Parkinson’s disease to develop at an early stage and develop treatments that can halt the progression of the disease, we will be able to start preventative treatment at a stage where mortality is at a minimum.” bounded by nerve cells.
“This allows us to significantly slow down the progression of the disease.”
Researchers were able to show for the first time that in Parkinson’s patients who did not develop the disease due to genetic factors – which affects 85 percent of all patients – the way cells connect to the network of proteins in the brain was impaired by the disease.
They took cells from certain individuals, reprogrammed them into stem cells, and then differentiated them as cells of a different type that carried the same genetic makeup of the individual they were taken from. They took skin samples from nine patients who had both variants of Parkinson’s disease.
The skin cells were converted into stem cells and then into dopaminergic neurons, brain cells that synthesize dopamine, which is necessary for the proper execution of motor actions. Parkinson’s patients suffer from a massive loss of nerve cells in the area of the brain filled with dopaminergic neurons.
These neurons carried each patient’s genetic load and were “sick” of the same type of Parkinson’s disease as that participant. The researchers found damage to the extracellular matrix and a decrease in synaptic activity, which is responsible for the transmission of neuronal messages, in patients with both types of disease.
“The dopaminergic neurons we studied are derived from patients through reprogramming that rejuvenates them into young cells,” said Dr. Star.
“In other words, we can see changes in electrical activity, genes and extracellular matrix proteins, even when the cells are young.
“This implies that these changes exist in Parkinson’s patients long before they are aware of a disease process going on in their brain. If we do this sequencing in a young person and find a similar picture as in people who have Parkinson’s disease, we can assume that that person will develop the disease at a later stage.