The immune system is our main line of defense against a world full of potentially dangerous disease causing agents. It is a complicated beast that does a fantastic job of keeping us safe and well.
Recently, however, there was an interesting study suggesting that a genetic risk factor for Parkinson’s may be associated with an over-reaction from the immune system in response to infection from a common human food poisoning bug.
Specifically, mice who were missing the gene PINK1 literally had an ‘autoimmune reaction’ to the infection – that is the immune system began attacking healthy cells of the body – while normal mice (with intact PINK1 genes) recovered from the infection and went about their business.
In today’s post, we will explore this new research and discuss why we may need to rethink PINK.
Source: Huffington Post
I have had a guts full of all this gut research being published about Parkinson’s.
[NOTE 1.: For the unitiated: A “guts full” – Adjective, Kiwi colloquialism. Meaning ‘Had enough of’, ‘fed up of’, ‘endured to the point of tolerance’]
[NOTE 2.: The author of this blog is a Kiwi]
I really can’t stomach anymore of it.
And my gut feeling suggests that there is only more to come. It would be nice though, to have something else… something different to digest.
So what is today’s post all about?
Gut research of course.
But this gut research has a REALLY interesting twist.
In this post we discuss several recently published research reports suggesting that Parkinson’s disease may be an autoimmune condition. “Autoimmunity” occurs when the defence system of the body starts attacks the body itself.
This new research does not explain what causes of Parkinson’s disease, but it could explain why certain brain cells are being lost in some people with Parkinson’s disease. And such information could point us towards novel therapeutic strategies.
The first issue of Nature. Source: SimpleWikipedia
The journal Nature was first published on 4th November 1869, by Alexander MacMillan. It hoped to “provide cultivated readers with an accessible forum for reading about advances in scientific knowledge.” It has subsequently become one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world, with an online readership of approximately 3 million unique readers per month (almost as much as we have here at the SoPD).
Each Wednesday afternoon, researchers around the world await the weekly outpouring of new research from Nature. And this week a research report was published in Nature that could be big for the world of Parkinson’s disease. Really big!
On the 21st June, this report was published:
Title: T cells from patients with Parkinson’s disease recognize α-synuclein peptides
Authors: Sulzer D, Alcalay RN, Garretti F, Cote L, Kanter E, Agin-Liebes J, Liong C, McMurtrey C, Hildebrand WH, Mao X, Dawson VL, Dawson TM, Oseroff C, Pham J, Sidney J, Dillon MB, Carpenter C, Weiskopf D, Phillips E, Mallal S, Peters B, Frazier A, Lindestam Arlehamn CS, Sette A
Journal: Nature. 2017 Jun 21. doi: 10.1038/nature22815.
In their study, the investigators collected blood samples from 67 people with Parkinson’s disease and from 36 healthy patients (which were used as control samples). They then exposed the blood samples to fragments of proteins found in brain cells, including fragments of alpha synuclein – this is the protein that is so closely associated with Parkinson’s disease (it makes regular appearances on this blog).
What happened next was rather startling: the blood from the Parkinson’s patients had a strong reaction to two specific fragments of alpha synuclein, while the blood from the control subjects hardly reacted at all to these fragments.
In the image below, you will see the fragments listed along the bottom of the graph (protein fragments are labelled with combinations of alphabetical letters). The grey band on the plot indicates the two fragments that elicited a strong reaction from the blood cells – note the number of black dots (indicating PD samples) within the band, compared to the number of white dots (control samples). The numbers on the left side of the graph indicate the number of reacting cells per 100,000 blood cells.
The investigators concluded from this experiment that these alpha synuclein fragments may be acting as antigenic epitopes, which would drive immune responses in people with Parkinson’s disease and they decided to investigate this further.