‘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.
The researchers were also able to demonstrate this mechanism in cell cultures taken from patients with Parkinson’s. A small skin sample was taken from affected patients. These skin cells were then converted into stem cells, which can be developed into any type of cell, and in this case, into nerve cells.
In initial trials, the researchers succeeded in suppressing the formation of lumps of alpha-synuclein, thus improving the transportation of information in the nerve fibres. However, the substance they used has not yet passed clinical trials. Nevertheless, the lead author of the study, Dr. Iryna Prots, says ‘Our findings mean we can improve our understanding of the mechanisms that cause Parkinson’s and push forward new strategies for treatment during the progression of the disease.’
Dr. Iryna Prots
Phone +49 9131 8539303
Prof. Dr. Beate Winner
Phone +49 9131 8539301
2018 Prots, J. Grosch, R.-M. Brazdis, K. Simmnacher, V. Veber, S. Havlicek, C. Hannappel, F. Krach, M. Krumbiegel, O. Schütz, A. Reis, W. Wrasidlo, D.R. Galasko, T.W. Groemer, E. Masliah, U. Schlötzer-Schrehardt, W. Xiang, J. Winkler, and B. Winner. α-Synuclein oligomers induce early axonal dysfunction in human iPSC-based models of synucleinopathies. PNAS July 10, 2018. 201713129; published ahead of print July 10, 2018. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1713129115
Dr. Susanne Langer | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
Collagen nanofibrils in mammalian tissues get stronger with exercise
14.12.2018 | University of Illinois College of Engineering
New discoveries predict ability to forecast dementia from single molecule
12.12.2018 | UT Southwestern Medical Center
Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.
Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...
The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.
Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
18.12.2018 | Materials Sciences
18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy