Disrupted transport routes in nerve cells are a cause of Parkinson's
‘Traffic jams’ can also occur in the brain and they can be damaging. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg(FAU) have been able to confirm that this is the case. They have been able to prove that disrupted transportation routes in nerve cells are a significant cause of Parkinson’s disease. Their findings have recently been published in the leading journal PNAS.
Nerve fibres give nerve cells their characteristic long shape. Measuring up to one metre in length, they form the contact points to other nerve cells. In order to carry out the important task of communicating with other nerve cells, the fine branches of these nerve fibres and their ends, called synapses, must be regularly supplied with energy from the cell body. If this energy supply is interrupted, the synapses are destroyed. Connections between nerve cells are then disrupted, which can lead to the cells dying off. This process is typical for the development of brain disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
It is unclear which mechanisms are responsible for the loss of nerve cells in Parkinson’s. Researchers at FAU led by Dr. Iryna Prots and Prof. Dr. Beate Winner from the Department of Stem Cell Biology in conjunction with researchers from the Department of Molecular Neurology (Janina Grosch, head: Prof. Dr. Jürgen Winkler) have now succeeded in demonstrating that a type of ‘traffic jam’ in the nerve cells could be the cause.
The researchers discovered that the traffic jam is triggered by a protein called alpha-synuclein, which is also found in healthy nerve cells. In abnormal nerve cells, the protein forms deposits, or even lumps, leading to a delay, disrupting the energy supply of the nerve fibres and, ultimately, damaging the synapses.
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