About 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease every year, and about one percent of the world’s over-60 population is affected by the condition, making it the second most widely diagnosed neurodegenerative condition in the world. Scientists aren’t sure what causes Parkinson’s to develop, but the presence of toxic mechanisms including “Lewy bodies” made of the protein alpha-synuclein in the brain contribute to its development, interfering with the normal activity of nerves in the brain.
The trigger for the formation of Lewy bodies and exactly how they function within the brain isn’t known, but researchers do know that blocking them could stop the motor function deterioration associated with Parkinson’s Disease. Medical News Today reported on Saturday that researchers in the Universität Autonoma de Barcelona in Spain have identified a molecule that can do just that and more. The researchers say that the molecule they named SynuClean-D blocks and reverses neurodegeneration in the brain.
When researchers began their study, they were on the lookout for molecules that would keep alpha-synuclein from sticking together and forming Lewy bodies. Over 14,000 molecules were examined, and SynuClean-D was identified with the ability to perform this function. The next step was to make sure that using SynuClean-D in human cells, a task that was accomplished by testing the molecule in vitro (outside a living organism) and then in vivo (within a living organism).
Parkinson’s Disease usually progresses through five stages, each successive stage including increasingly difficult movement and balance until the patient becomes bedridden and possibly hallucinatory. Before symptoms appear, those with Parkinson’s have already lost 60 to 80 percent of their dopamine-producing cells. The first symptoms usually include tremors in hands, feet, head, jaw, legs, arms or feet, according to Medicine Net. Another common early symptom is rigidity of muscles in the trunk and limbs that may cause pain and problems with fine motor movement in the hands that makes handwriting difficult.
Those in the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease also suffer from slow movement, deteriorating balance, and problems maintaining posture. There is also a distinctive walking gait associated with early Parkinson’s. Shuffling of the feet, a stooped posture, and loss of an arm swing while walking are all typical at this stage of the disease.
As the disease progresses, symptoms vary widely and can include mental health issues like anxiety and depression, problems with cognitive function and memory, difficulty swallowing, loss of volume in speaking voice, and skin problems.
Most people are at least 60 years of age when they develop Parkinson’s Disease, and men are affected more than women. There is not a high hereditary element. Head trauma or illness and exposure to pesticides and herbicides can also increase someone’s risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease.