Early intervention may be possible for Parkinson's disease

December 9, 2016 by Chelsea Hunter, Neuroscience Research Australia
Credit: Neuroscience Research Australia

One of the largest post-mortem brain studies in the world has confirmed that a protein (LRRK2) associated with the development of Parkinson's disease is increased in the pre-symptom stages, leading researchers to believe they may be able to treat the disease sooner.

A mutation of the LRRK2 gene is found in people with a of Parkinson's (PD) and is a known genetic contributor. The study found that there are increased levels of LRRK2 in the pre-symptomatic stages of PD, suggesting that this may be an appropriate time to administer pharmaceutical therapies.

Previous studies have shown that PD-associated genetic mutations increase the activity of LRRK2, and that this activity can be reduced by drug therapies.

"We focused on this protein in particular because it holds a lot of promise, and there is currently a bottleneck in known facts about it," says Dr Nicolas Dzamko from Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA).

"This study has given us the most comprehensive picture to date of what is happening with the LRRK2 protein in the brains of people with Parkinson's disease. There are drugs in development that can act on LRRK2's activity, but we need to know when to give them to people and which people will most benefit from it."

Dr Dzamko's team at NeuRA collaborated with scientists who specialise in PD from research institutes in London, Tokyo, Amsterdam and Sunnyvale, California to map the expression of LRRK2 in the brain.

"We've used a large sample size for each area of the brain that we analysed. Different parts of the brain are affected differently by PD, so we have an even better understanding of where LRRK2 can be found in the and at what levels and how these are changed by Parkinson's disease."

Treatments are expected to be of benefit to people who have the familial form of PD caused by the genetic mutation of LRRK2, but may also work on those who have idiopathic PD, whose cause is unknown. This work will help with planning the clinical trials of LRRK2-blocking drugs that are currently under consideration.

Parkinson's disease is a movement disorder that affects an estimated 10 million individuals worldwide – 70,000 in Australia. Thirty-two people are diagnosed with the disease in Australia every day. PD causes trembling, stiffness, slowness of movement and a loss of fine motor control.

Explore further: Discovery may lead to a treatment to slow Parkinson's disease

More information: Nicolas Dzamko et al. LRRK2 levels and phosphorylation in Parkinson's disease brain and cases with restricted Lewy bodies, Movement Disorders (2016). DOI: 10.1002/mds.26892

Related Stories

Discovery may lead to a treatment to slow Parkinson's disease

July 19, 2016
Using a robust model for Parkinson's disease, University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers and colleagues have discovered an interaction in neurons that contributes to Parkinson's disease, and they have shown that drugs ...

Blocking LRRK2 activity is not a simple answer to Parkinson's disease

May 29, 2012
Mutations in the LRRK2 gene are the most common cause of genetic Parkinson's disease (PD). New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Molecular Neurodegeneration demonstrates that loss of function of LRRK2 ...

Lab method sheds light on how genetic mutations cause inherited Parkinson's disease

July 29, 2016
Scientists have developed a new method of measuring the activity of disease-causing mutations in the LRRK2 gene, a major cause of inherited Parkinson's disease.

Identifying another piece in the Parkinson's disease pathology puzzle

January 28, 2016
An international public-private research consortium has identified and validated a cellular role of a primary Parkinson's disease drug target, the LRRK2 kinase. This important finding, published in the online, open-access ...

Key cause of Parkinson's disease can be treated

December 1, 2016
A new Australian study that models the early stages of Parkinson's disease has given researchers insight into its causes and a possible treatment.

Recommended for you

A new therapeutic avenue for Parkinson's disease

January 23, 2018
Systemic clearing of senescent astrocytes prevents Parkinson's neuropathology and associated symptoms in a mouse model of sporadic disease, the type implicated in 95% of human cases. Publishing in Cell Reports, researchers ...

Investigators eye new target for treating movement disorders

January 19, 2018
Blocking a nerve-cell receptor in part of the brain that coordinates movement could improve the treatment of Parkinson's disease, dyskinesia and other movement disorders, researchers at Vanderbilt University have reported.

Parkinson's disease 'jerking' side effect detected by algorithm

January 8, 2018
A mathematical algorithm that can reliably detect dyskinesia, the side effect from Parkinson's treatment that causes involuntary jerking movements and muscle spasms, could hold the key to improving treatment and for patients ...

New brainstem changes identified in Parkinson's disease

January 4, 2018
A pioneering study has found that patients with Parkinson's disease have more errors in the mitochondrial DNA within the brainstem, leading to increased cell death in that area.

Caffeine level in blood may help diagnose people with Parkinson's disease

January 3, 2018
Testing the level of caffeine in the blood may provide a simple way to aid the diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, according to a study published in the January 3, 2018, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the ...

Researchers shed light on why exercise slows progression of Parkinson's disease

December 22, 2017
While vigorous exercise on a treadmill has been shown to slow the progression of Parkinson's disease in patients, the molecular reasons behind it have remained a mystery.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.