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Nerve cells could hold key to curing Parkinson's

Nerve cells could hold key to curing Parkinson's
17th October 2014

Protecting the connections in the brain could halt the onset of Parkinson's.

Research carried out by University College London has looked into the connections between nerve cells - or synapses - as they seek to develop a new treatment method. The study discovered the death of synapses in the brain could be due to the failure of proteins called Wnt.

Mice were given drugs that deliberately stopped Wnt proteins and the mammals were found to struggle with their movement - a sign of Parkinson's. Because of this, restoring Wnt's protective abilities in those with Parkinson's could stop synapses from dying and therefore halting the progression of the condition. 

Parkinson's UK researcher Dr Soledad Galli, who led the study, was happy with the findings, especially as the area has not been looked into in very great detail before. 

"We now need to see if what we've found in mice holds true when we study samples from people with Parkinson's," she stated. 

Dr Galli added that if the team can confirm that Wnt is involved in the early stages of Parkinson's it will throw up some "exciting possibilities" in terms of identifying and treating the condition. 

Parkinson's UK research communications officer Dr Beckie Port pointed out that up until now the majority of research on this topic has been focused on preventing the death of nerve cells. This study, however, looks at how the bridges between nerve cells can be protected. 

"We urgently need drugs that can stop Parkinson's getting worse, rather than just masking the symptoms," she added. 

The study was funded by Parkinson's UK and the findings can be read in-depth in Nature Communications. 

Up to 127,000 individuals in the UK are believed to currently have the condition. There is still no known cure.

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