Scientists in the US believe they have made a significant breakthrough in understanding how Parkinson's disease affects the neurons in the brain.
Researchers from the University of California used cutting-edge scanning technology to assess how a protein called alpha-synuclein can cause the recycling and regeneration processes that takes place within brain cells.
Parkinson's disease causes the destruction of the brain cells responsible for producing dopamine - a chemical responsible for controlling movement and emotion.
The team's investigation suggests a build up of alpha-synuclein could prevent the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, with neurons dying if this continues over a period of time.
Professor Mark Ellisman, who led the research, said: "This is an important new insight. I don't think anybody realised just how big a role alpha-synuclein played."
It is now hoped this research can be built upon to develop effective new treatments for Parkinson's disease.
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