Science & Tech

Parkinson’s disease: Brain cells that cause the condition finally identified

MRI brain scan of someone with Parkinson's disease

An MRI mind scan of a 58-year-old with Parkinson’s illness


The subtype of mind cells that die in Parkinson’s illness has been found utilizing a brand new approach that may establish which genes are energetic in particular person cells.

We have identified for many years that Parkinson’s illness, a progressive situation that ends in the event of tremors and difficulties in transferring, is linked with the gradual loss of life of cells in a part of the mind referred to as the substantia nigra. The cells involved make a signalling chemical referred to as dopamine, concerned in controlling motion – however their precise identification was unclear.

Medicines for Parkinson’s illness increase dopamine in numerous methods, but their results are likely to wane over time, so higher remedies are wanted, says Evan Macosko on the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

Macosko’s staff checked out cells from the substantia nigra of eight individuals who didn’t have Parkinson’s and had agreed to donate their brains for analysis after loss of life.

The researchers used a comparatively new approach referred to as single cell RNA sequencing, which permits cells inside a tissue to be analysed individually to see which of their genes are energetic and producing proteins. They discovered there have been 10 completely different subtypes of dopamine-producing cells inside the substantia nigra.

Next, the researchers used the identical approach on the brains of 10 individuals who had died with both Parkinson’s or the same situation referred to as Lewy physique dementia. They discovered that solely one of many subtypes of mind cells was diminished in quantity, suggesting many cells of this subtype had died whereas the folks have been alive.

There are about 100,000 of those cells in a wholesome grownup mind. “It’s a very small subset,” says Macosko. “It was like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

The findings ought to result in a greater understanding of the causes of Parkinson’s and a solution to assess potential remedies, he says. If the cells are grown in a dish, new medicines might be examined on them, for example. Some teams are additionally making an attempt to develop dopamine-making cells that might be transplanted into the brains of individuals with Parkinson’s.

Journal reference: Nature Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1038/s41593-022-01061-1

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