Health Parkinson’s partly an autoimmune disease, study finds

Parkinson’s partly an autoimmune disease, study finds

Therapies that dampen the immune response may prevent the death of neurons in Parkinson’s disease, the neurodegenerative movement disorder.

This possibility has been raised following the first direct evidence that autoimmunity—in which the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues—plays a role in Parkinson’s disease, the neurodegenerative movement disorder.

Professor Elizabeth Phillips and Professor Simon Mallal, from the Institute for Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Murdoch University were involved in the provision, generation and interpretation of the data from patients’ samples in the study.

This work was led by scientists at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology.

“This study provides unifying underlying mechanisms that support Parkinson’s disease as an autoimmune disease in humans that results from destruction of nerve cells by the patient’s own immune system,” Professor Phillips said.

“It is exciting that this will likely lead to important breakthroughs in novel targeted therapies for Parkinson’s disease in the future.”

Professor Phillips explained that, in patients with Parkinson’s disease, it appears that immune cells called T cells attack certain protein fragments that accumulate in an abnormal way and are recognised as foreign.

This specific immune response in Parkinson’s patients was associated with their genetic immune make-up.

In the study, the researchers analysed blood samples from Parkinson’s disease patients and an age-matched healthy control group to determine which, if any, of the protein fragments triggered an immune response.

They found the immune response was associated with a common form of a gene in the immune system, which may explain why many people with Parkinson’s disease carry this gene variant.

Researchers are now analysing these responses in additional patients, aiming to develop an immunotherapy which could help to ameliorate or prevent worsening symptoms in Parkinson’s disease patients.

For more details of this significant discovery, click here. Story credit: Murdoch University newsroom.

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