Researchers may have found a way to halt, and even reverse, the neural damage associated with Parkinson’s disease (PD) using a novel molecule that targets a key cause of nerve cell damage.
One of the hallmarks of PD is widespread aggregation of the α-synuclein protein, forming so-called Lewy bodies which disrupt the normal activity of nerve cells. With this in mind, recent work by a multinational group of investigators from European centres in Spain, Germany, France and the UK has been evaluating molecules that can stop α-synuclein aggregation in its tracks.
By scanning a library of over 14,000 molecules, the researchers identified SynuClean-D as an attractive inhibitor of α-synuclein. Using an assay tuned to detection of thioflavin-T (Th-T) – which binds to amyloid proteins – they were able to confirm that SynuClean-D reduced the number of Th-T-positive aggregates.
In vivo testing was carried out using the Caenorhabditis elegans worm, a commonly used model for PD thanks to its expression of α-synuclein in muscle and dopaminergic neurons. In testing, SynuClean-D-treated worms had fewer visible α-synuclein aggregates compared to untreated controls. Moreover, some of the treated worms exhibited nearly complete loss of protein aggregates, and exhibited boosted mobility.
“Everything seems to indicate that the molecule we identified … SynuClean-D, may provide therapeutic applications for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s in the future,” Salvador Ventura, a senior author of the study, said in a press release.