Encouraging neurons to revert to a more juvenile state might help slow or stop the progression of Parkinson's disease. Using mouse models of Parkinson's disease, James Surmeier and colleagues report that blocking calcium channels with a commonly used drug 'rejuvenates' the dopamine-containing neurons that are typically affected by the disorder.
Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the death of dopamine-containing neurons in a region of the brain called the substantia nigra - but why these neurons are particularly vulnerable remains unclear. This research shows that these neurons rely on calcium channels to maintain their rhythmic activity. This reliance increases with age and leads to sustained elevations in cytosolic Ca2+, which could ultimately be detrimental to the cells.By blocking calcium channels in adult neurons - in both in vitro and in vivo mouse models - the authors were able to induce a more juvenile form of neural activity, forcing the neurons to use other ion channels and protecting them against disease progression.
The authors, whose findings are published online in Nature, speculate that these findings point to a potential therapeutic strategy that might protect against Parkinson's disease in humans, and possibly also broaden the therapeutic window for patients in the early stages of the disease.
James Surmeier (Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA)
(C) Nature press release.
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