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Over the last decade, a large number of clinical trials involving immunotherapy have been conducted in the field of Alzheimer’s research. The overall success rate of these studies has not been encouraging.
Immunotherapy involves artificially boosting the immune system so that it targets of particular pathogen – like a rogue protein in the case of Alzheimer’s – and clears it from the body.
Recently, preclinical research has pointed to several possible reasons why this approach may be struggling in the clinical trials, and potential solutions that could be explored.
In today’s post, we will review two research reports and consider how this applies to Parkinson’s research.
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Immune cells (blue) checking out a suspect cell. Source: Lindau-nobel
Immunotherapy is a method of boosting the body’s immune system to better fight a particular disease. Think of it as training the immune cells in your body to target a particular protein.
The approach involves utilising the immune system of your body, and artificially altering it to target a particular protein/disease-causing agent that is not usually recognised as a pathogen (a disease causing agent).
It is truly remarkable that we have gone from painting on cave walls to flying helicopters on Mars and therapeutically manipulating our body’s primary defense system.
Immunotherapy is potentially a very powerful method for treating a wide range of medical conditions. To date, the majority of the research on immunotherapies have focused on the field of oncology (‘cancer’). Numerous methods of immunotherapy have been developed for cancer and are currently being tested in the clinic (Click here to read more about immunotherapy for cancer).
Many approaches to immunotherapy against cancer. Source: Bloomberg
Immunotherapy has also been tested in neurodegenerative conditions, like Alzheimer’s and more recently Parkinson’s. It typically involves researchers carefully designing antibodies that target a rogue protein (like beta amyloid in Alzheimer’s and alpha synuclein in Parkinson’s) which begin to cluster together, and this aggregation of protein is believed to lead to neurotoxicity.
What are antibodies?
Continue reading “Does immunotherapy need therapy?”
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Lysosomes are small bags of enzymes that are used to break down material inside of cells – digesting newly absorbed food or recycling old/used proteins and rubbish. Recently researchers have been discovering increasing evidence that points towards dysfunction in lysosomes as a key influential player in neurodegenerative conditions, like Parkinson’s.
There are several Parkinson’s genetic risk factors associated with lysosomal function (GBA being the obvious one), that can increase one’s risk of developing Parkinson’s.
But there is also data indicating that individuals without any of these risk factors may also have reduced lysosomal activity. And recently researchers have identified one possible explanation.
In today’s post, we will explore what lysosomes are, investigate how they maybe involved with Parkinson’s, review what the new data reports, and discuss how this information might be useful.
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Type of endocytosis. Source: Slidemodel
On a continual basis, cells inside your body are absorbing material from the world around them with the aim of collecting all that they need to survive. They do this predominantly via a process called endocytosis, in which a small part of the cell membrane envelopes around an object (or objects) and it is brought inside the cell.
As the section of cell membrane enters the interior of the cell, it detaches from the membranes and forms what is called an endosomes (sometimes it is also called a vacuole). Once inside, the endosome transported deeper into the interior of the cells where it will bind to another small bag that is full of digestive enzymes that help to break down the contents of the endosome.
This second bag is called a lysosome.
How lysosomes work. Source: Prezi
Once bound, the lysosome and the endosome/vacuole will fuse together and the enzymes from the lysosome will be unleashed on the material contained in the vacuole. The digestion that follows will break down the material into more manageable components that the cell needs to function and survive.
This enzymatic process works in a very similar fashion to the commercial products that you use for washing your clothes.
Enzymatic degradation. Source: Samvirke
The reagents that you put into the washing machine with your clothes contain a multitude of enzymes, each of which help to break down the dirty, bacteria, flakes of skin, etc that cling to your clothes. Each enzyme breaks down a particular protein, fat or such like. And this situation is very similar to the collection of enzymes in the lysosome. Each enzyme has a particular task and all of them are needed to break down the contents of the endosome.
Interesting, but what does this have to do with Parkinson’s?
Continue reading “Trying to LIMP-2 the lysosome”
Mitochondrial division inhibitor-1 (mdivi-1) is a small molecule drug that is demonstrating very impressive effects in preclinical models of Parkinson’s disease. With further research it could represent a potential future therapy for people with Parkinson’s disease, particularly those with genetic mutations affecting the mitochondria in their cells.
What are mitochondria?
In this post, we will explain what mitochondria are, how they may be involved in Parkinson’s disease, and we will discuss what the results of new research mean for future therapeutic strategies.
Mitochondria are fascinating.
Utterly. Utterly. Fascinating.
On the most basic level, Mitochondria (mitochondrion, singular; from the Greek words mitos (thread) and chondros (granule)) are just tiny little bean-shaped structures within the cells in our body, and their primary function is to act as the power stations. They supply the bulk of energy that cells require to keep the lights on. This chemical form of energy produced by the mitochondria is called adenosine triphosphate (or ATP). Lots of mitochondria are required in each cell to help keep the cell alive (as is shown in the image below, which is showing just the mitochondria (red) and the nucleus (blue) of several cells).
Lots of mitochondria (red) inside cells (nucleus in blue). Source: Clonetech
That’s the basic stuff – the general definition you will find in most text books on biology.
But let me ask you this:
How on earth did mitochondria come to be inside each cell and playing such a fundamental role?
I don’t know. Are you going to tell me?
Because we simply don’t know.
But understand this: Mitochondria are intruders.
Continue reading “Mdivi-1: the small molecule that could?”