Mice were “cured” of Parkinson’s disease after a scientific study took an unexpected turn.
By Getty Images
Scientists from the University of California (UC) in San Diego set out to better understand the role of proteins in connective cells, only to discover a way to transform many different types of cells into neurons.
Parkinson’s comes about when neurons – nerve cells – that produce the chemical messenger dopamine, which regulates movement, die off. Patients typically suffer tremors, slow movement and loss of balance when 80% of dopamine is lost.
The scientists used this discovery to develop a one-off treatment that eliminated Parkinson’s symptoms in mice, raising hopes of a cure down the line.
Existing treatments aim to ease signs of the disease and improve a patient’s quality of life, like via physiotherapy.
More than 145,000 people over 20 in the UK are thought to have been living with Parkinson’s in 2018. In the US, nearly 1 million people have the disease.
The UC scientists were studying a protein called PTB that turns genes “on or off” within cells.
In an attempt to better understand how PTB influences cell function, they silenced the protein in the connective tissue cell fibroblasts.
The fibroblasts were then grown in petri dishes to check for any changes.
A couple of weeks later, the scientists were surprised to find very few fibroblasts remained, having largely been replaced by neurons.
In a later experiment, published in the journal Nature, the team discovered brain cells called astrocytes also “turned” into neurons when PTB was silenced.
“Researchers around the world have tried many ways to generate neurones in the lab, using stem cells and other means, so we can study them better, as well as to use them to replace lost neurones in neurodegenerative diseases,” said lead author Dr Xiang-Dong Fu.
Originally published at Yahoo! life