Researchers from La Jolla Institute for Immunology have discovered a genetic signature on the circulating T cells of patients with Parkinson’s disease, which they hope can provide new avenues of research for potential treatments.
Building on previous findings that support the role of the immune system and inflammation in Parkinson’s, researchers performed RNA sequencing on peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and CD4 and CD8 memory T cells in 34 patients with Parkinson’s and 19 healthy age-matched controls.
The study authors’ previous work demonstrated that up to half of a study sample of patients with Parkinson’s exhibited an alpha-synuclein-specific T cell response, and that this response occurred during the earlier stages of Parkinson’s and subsided in later stages of the disease. This led to the hypothesis that some patients may exhibit an inflammatory autoimmune phenotype. Therefore, in this study, the Parkinson’s group was divided into responder vs non-responder groups based on their immune response to alpha-synuclein peptides.
The study results, published in Parkinson’s Disease, showed clear genetic differences in the memory T cells of the alpha-synuclein responders vs the non-responders. Some of the differences occurred in genes that have a demonstrated role in neurological disorders and Parkinson’s specifically, such as LRRK2 and LAMP3, and other differences identified novel genes not previously associated with Parkinson’s disease.
“…it is possible that early targeting of the same genes by inhibiting or activating their function could delay or terminate disease progression or prevent disease development during the prodromal phase.”