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New approaches for potentially slowing the progression of Parkinson’s are being announced on a regular basis. Some of them can not be independently replicated (such is the nature of science), while others open up whole new areas of research.
Recently scientists have reported that inhibiting certain aspects of the kynurenine pathway – which plays a critical role in generating energy in cells – can have neuroprotective results in models of Parkinson’s.
Many of the results have been independently replicated and the findings are now resulting in a new class of drug heading for clinical testing.
In today’s post, we will delve into what the kynurenine pathway is, explore how it relates to Parkinson’s, and discuss some of the approaches soon heading for the clinic.
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Structure of tryptophan. Source: Wikipedia
Tryptophan is one of eight essential amino acids.
Amino acids are the fundamental building blocks of proteins in biology, but the “essential” label in this case does not refer to its necessity (although it is necessary), but rather the fact that it cannot be made by our bodies. As a result, all essential amino acids must come from the food we consume.
Tryptophan has many functions within the body:
- it is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin (which influences your mood, cognition, and behaviour)
- it is a precursor of the hormone melatonin (which governs your sleep-wake cycle)
- it is a precursor of vitamin B3 (naicin)
More importantly, however, tryptophan is also involved in kynurenine synthesis.
What is kynurenine synthesis?