Is your own immune system responsible for Parkinson's disease?
Trembling, insecure movements, stooped posture, expressionless faces - the severity of Parkinson's disease, formerly known as shaking paralysis, can often be seen at a glance. However, the exact causes of the disease are still considered to be insufficiently understood. A German research team has now taken a big step closer to decoding. They were able to show that immune cells in Parkinson's cells attack and kill the midbrain nerve cells.
A team of doctors from the Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU) discovered a possible cause of the disease in the immune system of those affected. It is already known that nerve cells in the brain are constantly dying in Parkinson's. Cells that produce the messenger substance dopamine are particularly affected. The researchers were able to show that immune cells in the immune system, known as T cells, attack and destroy dopamine-producing nerve cells in the midbrain. The study results were recently published in the journal "Cell Stem Cell".
Parkinson's - the movement disorders of the nervous system
Parkinson's disease is one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases. Around 300,000 people are affected in Germany, and over four million worldwide. Sufferers suffer from slow and delayed movements, rigid muscles, violent tremors and severe postural damage with increasingly bent posture.
What you knew about the creation so far
So far, the lack of the messenger dopamine is considered to be the cause of the disease. This is released in the substantia nigra brain region. In Parkinson's patients, dopamine-producing cells die more and more. As a result of the rapid death, the body does not have enough dopamine messenger substances and there are typical symptoms. The reasons for premature cell death have so far been unclear. This is where the FAU scientists come in.
The role of the defense cells
The stem cell researchers Dr. Annika Sommer, Dr. Iryna Prots and Prof. Dr. Beate Winner and her team made a groundbreaking discovery. They found an unusually large number of immune system immune cells in the midbrain of people with Parkinson's. These T cells are found in the brain when the immune system is active and attacks cells. The scientists found similarities to processes that show up in autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Killed by your own immune system?
In various tests on healthy and Parkinson's patients, the research team was able to demonstrate that the immune cells in the brains of people with Parkinson's disease kill a larger number of nerve cells than in healthy people. The so-called Th17 cells seem to play a central role.
Soon to be cured for Parkinson's?
Further tests give hope for a new active ingredient against the shaking paralysis. Antibodies that are already known can block the Th17 cells. These antibodies are already used in everyday clinical practice against psoriasis. In laboratory tests, the experts were able to document how these antibodies could largely prevent the death of the dopamine-producing nerve cells.
An important basis for future therapy options
"With our investigations, we were able to clearly demonstrate that and how T cells are involved in the development of Parkinson's syndrome," explains Professor Dr. Beate Winner. From the perspective of the study team, this offers an important basis for new treatment options for Parkinson's disease. (vb)