Parkinson’s disease, formerly also referred to as shaking palsy, is one of the most frequent disorders affecting movement and the nervous system. Medical researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have come across a possible cause of the disease – in the patients’ immune system. The scientists have published their research findings in the magazine ‘Cell Stem Cell’ (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.stem.2018.06.015 Cell Stem Cell: Th17 Lymphocytes Induce Neuronal Cell Death in a Human iPSC-Based Model of Parkinson’s Disease).
Currently, approximately 4.1 million people suffer from Parkinson’s disease throughout the globe, in Germany alone more than 300,000 people are affected. Typical symptoms of the disease are slowness of movement, rigidity, frequent shaking and an increasingly stooped posture. The cause is the continuous death of nerve cells in the brain, which produce the messenger substance dopamine.
Scientists are working to gain insights into the mechanisms which lead to the loss of nerve cells that produce dopamine. Until now, little has been known about whether human immune cells have an important role to play in Parkinson’s disease.
The stem cell researchers Dr. Annika Sommer, Dr. Iryna Prots and Prof. Dr. Beate Winner from FAU and their team have made a major leap forward in research into this aspect of the disease. The scientists from Erlangen were able to prove that in Parkinson’s disease immune cells from the immune system, so-called t-cells, attack and kill nerve cells which produce dopamine in the midbrain.
The FAU team based its research on a surprising observation: the scientists found an unusually high number of t-cells in the midbrain of Parkinson’s patients. These cells are commonly found in the brains of patients suffering from diseases in which the immune system attacks the brain.
During tests carried out in collaboration with the movement disorders clinic (molecular neurology) at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen (Prof. Jürgen Winkler), researchers discovered an increased number of certain t-cells, specifically Th17 cells, in Parkinson’s patients, similar to patients with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
In view of these results, the researchers decided to develop a very unusual cell culture from human cells. A small skin sample was taken from affected patients and healthy test subjects. These skin cells were converted into stem cells, which can develop into any type of cell. The research team then further differentiated these cells into midbrain nerve cells specific to the patient. These midbrain nerve cells were then brought into contact with fresh t-cells from the same patients.
The result: the immune cells of Parkinson’s patients killed a large number of their nerve cells, but this did not appear to be the case with healthy test subjects. Another result gives reason for hope: antibodies which block the effect of Th17 cells, including one antibody which is already being used on a daily basis in the hospital to treat psoriasis, were able to largely prevent the death of the nerve cells.
‘Thanks to our investigations, we were able to clearly prove not only that t-cells are involved in causing Parkinson’s disease, but also what role they actually play,’ explains Prof. Dr. Beate Winner. ‘The findings from our study offer a significant basis for new methods of treating Parkinson’s disease.’
Prof. Dr. Beate Winner
Phone: +49 9131 8539301
Phone: +49 9131 8539303
Dr. Susanne Langer | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Genetic differences between strains of Epstein-Barr virus can alter its activity
18.07.2019 | University of Sussex
Machine learning platform guides pancreatic cyst management in patients
18.07.2019 | American Association for the Advancement of Science
Adjusting the thermal conductivity of materials is one of the challenges nanoscience is currently facing. Together with colleagues from the Netherlands and Spain, researchers from the University of Basel have shown that the atomic vibrations that determine heat generation in nanowires can be controlled through the arrangement of atoms alone. The scientists will publish the results shortly in the journal Nano Letters.
In the electronics and computer industry, components are becoming ever smaller and more powerful. However, there are problems with the heat generation. It is...
Scientists have visualised the electronic structure in a microelectronic device for the first time, opening up opportunities for finely-tuned high performance electronic devices.
Physicists from the University of Warwick and the University of Washington have developed a technique to measure the energy and momentum of electrons in...
Scientists at the University Würzburg and University Hospital of Würzburg found that megakaryocytes act as “bouncers” and thus modulate bone marrow niche properties and cell migration dynamics. The study was published in July in the Journal “Haematologica”.
Hematopoiesis is the process of forming blood cells, which occurs predominantly in the bone marrow. The bone marrow produces all types of blood cells: red...
For some phenomena in quantum many-body physics several competing theories exist. But which of them describes a quantum phenomenon best? A team of researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Harvard University in the United States has now successfully deployed artificial neural networks for image analysis of quantum systems.
Is that a dog or a cat? Such a classification is a prime example of machine learning: artificial neural networks can be trained to analyze images by looking...
An international research group led by scientists from the University of Bayreuth has produced a previously unknown material: Rhenium nitride pernitride. Thanks to combining properties that were previously considered incompatible, it looks set to become highly attractive for technological applications. Indeed, it is a super-hard metallic conductor that can withstand extremely high pressures like a diamond. A process now developed in Bayreuth opens up the possibility of producing rhenium nitride pernitride and other technologically interesting materials in sufficiently large quantity for their properties characterisation. The new findings are presented in "Nature Communications".
The possibility of finding a compound that was metallically conductive, super-hard, and ultra-incompressible was long considered unlikely in science. It was...
24.06.2019 | Event News
29.04.2019 | Event News
17.04.2019 | Event News
19.07.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
19.07.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
19.07.2019 | Earth Sciences