Parkinson’s disease is caused by the accumulation of alpha-synuclein, a misfolded protein that interferes with the brain’s ability to produce dopamine. Researchers recently identified one way that alpha-synuclein is able to spread in the brain, a finding that could contribute to the development of disease-modifying treatments for Parkinson’s.
Using a stem cell model of Parkinson’s disease, researchers discovered that alpha-synuclein binds to another protein called LC3B. In cells that are functioning normally, LC3B targets misfolded proteins for degradation, but in Parkinson’s disease, LC3B is inactivated. This allows alpha-synuclein to accumulate and spread to other areas of the brain.
The researchers were able to reactivate LC3B and restore its ability to degrade alpha-synuclein, identifying a potential pathway for slowing or stopping the progression of Parkinson’s disease.