Graphics of a brain and face against a yellow cell background.

With vaccinations against Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s affects around 400,000 peo­p­le in Ger­ma­ny. Accor­ding to the Ger­man Par­kin­son Socie­ty, the num­ber of peo­p­le affec­ted world­wi­de increased from 2.5 mil­li­on to 6.1 mil­li­on bet­ween 1990 and 2016.

Typi­cal move­ment rest­ric­tions for Parkinson’s ari­se due to a lack of dopa­mi­ne. This is pro­du­ced in the black mat­ter of the brain. Cells die the­re as the dise­a­se pro­gres­ses. Pre­vious the­ra­pies com­pen­sa­te for the defi­ci­en­cy by adding dopamine. 

New the­ra­peu­tic approa­ches make it pos­si­ble to tre­at the cau­se of Parkinson’s directly.

Faulty protein destroys nerve cells

Ner­ve cells in the brain of Parkinson’s suf­fe­rers die becau­se the pro­te­in alpha-syn­u­clein is depo­si­ted in them. The­se clum­ped depo­sits are cau­sed by incor­rect fol­ding of the pro­te­in and are also cal­led Lewy bodies. 

Nor­mal­ly, alpha-syn­u­clein are an important part of infor­ma­ti­on trans­mis­si­on bet­ween ner­ve cells. If the­re is a clum­ping, accu­mu­la­ti­on and depo­si­ti­on in ner­ve cells due to Parkinson’s dise­a­se, the cell dis­in­te­gra­tes. Lewy bodies inva­de neigh­bor­ing neu­rons, and an expo­nen­ti­al respon­se follows.

Cause of clumping

Gene muta­ti­ons form a her­edi­ta­ry basis for Parkinson’s dise­a­se in up to 10 per­cent of cases. The remai­ning cases are due to an inter­ac­tion bet­ween gene­tic dis­po­si­ti­ons and their acti­va­ti­on by envi­ron­men­tal influen­ces. An accu­mu­la­ti­on of cor­re­spon­ding Par­kin­son-asso­cia­ted genes increa­ses the pro­ba­bi­li­ty of activation. 

Pos­si­ble posi­ti­ve envi­ron­men­tal influen­ces for the deve­lo­p­ment of Parkinson’s are pesti­ci­des, fre­quent con­cus­sions of the brain, regu­lar phy­si­cal exer­cise coun­ter­acts this.

Theo­re­ti­cal­ly, 90 genes are invol­ved in the for­ma­ti­on of Lewy bodies. The­se con­trol the pro­duc­tion of the syn­u­clein pro­te­in, the break­down of defec­ti­ve pro­te­ins or the func­tio­ning of mito­chon­dria. The lat­ter have a nega­ti­ve effect on the syn­u­clein pro­te­in by releasing free radi­cals if the mito­chon­dria them­sel­ves are disturbed.

Parkinson’s may start in the gut first. Evi­dence from ear­ly-stage pati­ents sug­gests that the first Lewy bodies are for­med in the vagus ner­ve in the gut and from the­re tra­vel to the brain.

Antibodies catch clumps

DNA parts of alpha-syn­u­cleins are intro­du­ced into the orga­nism of a sick per­son. This pro­du­ces an immu­ne respon­se which thrott­les the pro­duc­tion of alpha-synucleins. 

In ano­ther method, anti­bo­dies are injec­ted and spe­ci­fi­cal­ly bind to the alpha-syn­u­cleins bet­ween the ner­ve cells. Mark­ed in this way, they are bro­ken down by the immu­ne system. 

Both approa­ches pur­sue a reduc­tion in alpha-syn­u­cleins bet­ween the ner­ve cells in order to pre­vent a chain reac­tion in which healt­hy cells take up Lewy bodies, die off and pass them on.

It is important to tre­at only the Lewy bodies and not healt­hy alpha-synucleins.

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