Conditions which may accelerate the spread of Parkinson’s disease, and a potential means of enhancing naturally-occurring defences against neurodegenerative disorders, have been identified in two new studies.

Both sets of results have emerged from collaborations between the research groups led by Chris Dobson, Tuomas Knowles and Michele Vendruscolo at the University of Cambridge, who focus on understanding protein "misfolding" diseases. These include Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, as well as numerous others.

The first study provides evidence that the early spread of the protein aggregates associated with Parkinson’s appears to happen at an accelerated rate in mildly acidic conditions. This suggests that particular compartments within brain cells, which are slightly more acidic than others, may turn out to be appropriate targets for future treatments fighting the disease.

Meanwhile, researchers behind the second study appear to have identified a way in which the effectiveness of so-called molecular "chaperones", responsible for limiting the damage caused by misfolded proteins, can be significantly enhanced.

The papers appear in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.                                   

Source: University of Cambridge