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.
Inflammation is part of the immune system’s response to damage or infection. It is a very natural process that our bodies undergo when we come into harms way.
Researchers at the University of Queensland, have recently demonstrated something interesting about the inflammation associated with Parkinson’s: by inhibiting a very specific part of the inflammatory process, they can reduce the spread of Parkinson’s associated alpha synuclein pathology in models of PD.
And they have developed a drug – called MCC950 – that specifically targets that component of the inflammation process which they are now seeking to test in clinical trials.
In today’s post, we will discuss what inflammation is, review this new research, and consider what it could all mean for the Parkinson’s community.
Spot the unhealthy cell – exhibiting signs of stress (yellow). Source: Gettyimages
No silly preamble today – this is going to be a very long post, so we’re diving straight in:
When cells in your body are stressed or sick, they begin to release messenger proteins which inform the rest of your body that something is wrong.
When enough cells release these messenger proteins, it can cause inflammation.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is a vital part of the immune system’s response to trouble. It is the body’s way of communicating to the immune system that something is wrong and activating it so that it can help deal with the situation.
By releasing the messenger proteins, injured/sick cells kick off a process that results in multiple types of immune cells entering the troubled area of the body and undertaking very specific tasks.
The inflammatory process. Source: Trainingcor
The strength of the immune response depends on the volume of the signal arising from those released messenger proteins.
And the level of messenger proteins being released partly depends on multi-protein structures called inflammasomes.
What are inflammasomes?