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Parkinson’s Disease Might Be Caused By Your Immune System Going Haywire


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The journal Nature recently has published a study report providing evidence that Parkinson’s disease is closely linked to the immune system.


It is thought to be something known as an autoimmune disease, where the immune system of your own body  attacks healthy cells in a mistakable way. The death of neurons caused by Parkinson’s might therefore be prevented by decreasing immune response from the body.


As Dr Alessandro Sette, co-leader of this study, who was working at the Center for Infectious Disease of the La Jolla Institute in California, said, their findings made it possible that an immunotherapy approach could be applied to enhance the immune system’s tolerance for alpha-synuclein, which would be much helpful in ameliorating or preventing worsening symptoms in Parkinson’s disease patients.


The team got their findings when they had exposed blood samples from 67 patients of Parkinson’s disease and 36 age-matched healthy people to bits of alpha-synuclein and other proteins found in neurons. While little immune cell activity was observed in the control group, the blood samples of the other group demonstrated a strong response.


The reason could be that neurons in people with Parkinson’s disease failed to get rid of abnormal alpha-synuclein, which meant the protein could get mistaken as a pathogen and subsequently attacked.


David Sulzem the study leader, from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), said, the idea that a malfunctioning immune system related to Parkinson’s could be put forward nearly 100 years ago. However until now, no one has been capable of connecting the dots. Actually, their findings indicated that two fragments of alpha-synuclein, a protein accumulating in the brain cells of patients of Parkinson’s disease, could activate the T cells involved in autoimmune attacks.

For the time being, whether the immune response is the initial cause of Parkinson’s or a contributing factor to worsening symptoms is not quite clear yet. But it could assist scientists with easy diagnosis of Parkinson’s in people at the initial stage of the disease.


Based on the A study in 2014, Dr Sulzer and his colleagues, had found that neurons were vulnerably prone to autoimmune attacks. They had been previously thought to be protected, however proteins on their cell surface were discovered to play a part in helping the immune system find foreign substances.


This recent study demonstrated that T cells, a type of white blood cell that play an important part in immunity, could be the culprit. If damaged alpha-synuclein proteins build up, something that occurs during Parkinson’s disease, then the T cells can be induced into the thought that dopamine neurons are foreign.


There are several parts that Dopamine neurons would play, such as carrying signals for physical activity. Therefore, their loss could be related to some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, for example, shaking or reduced movement.

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