A subtle alteration of the electrical properties of the neurons responsible for the control of voluntary movements causes nerve cell damage and is the cause of motor-like disorders similar to Parkinson's. These were the findings of a Florentine study signed by the Department of Neuroscience, Psychology, Pharmacology and Child Health of the University of Florence and Careggi Hospital.
Steps ahead in understanding the neurodegenerative process at the base of Parkinson's Disease have been made. A study carried out by the Department of Neuroscience, Psychology, Pharmacology and Child Health and the University Hospital (Aou Careggi) has shown that a subtle alteration of the electrical properties of neurons that control volunteer movements causes damage to the same nerve cells and it is the cause of motor disorders similar to Parkinson's.
The investigation is carried out by the Florentine scientist Alessio Masi (University of Florence and Aou Careggi), coordinator of the project, Guido Mannaioni, professor of Pharmacology and doctor of Medical Toxicology at AOU Careggi, and the young researchers Carmen Carbone, Alessia Costa and Gustavo Provensi. The results were the topic of an article recently published in the Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience journal (doi.org/10.3389/fncel.2017.00187) .
"This is basic research that extends the knowledge of cellular mechanisms involved in dopaminergic neurodegeneration, explains Alessio Masi. The whole study stems from the observation that neurotoxin MPTP, a synthetic compound known for the ability to induce neurodegenerative effects similar to Parkinson's, causes not only damage to mitochondria but also to the electrical properties of cells."
There is therefore a relationship between the defect found by the researchers and Parkinson's motor disorders. This is confirmed by the fact that the affected neurons are hypersensitive and therefore more susceptible to metabolic stress, a condition that characterizes the disease at the cellular level. The results gained during the research are therefore opening up new research paths.
"It is now to verify if by correcting this defect in appropriate models we can slow the process of neuronal death, adds Masi. To this end, we will try to restore the expression levels of the protein to the base of the missing function through a kind of gene therapy."
Parkinson's patients are treated today with symptomatic drugs that have important side effects. The Florentine study is part of the research stream aimed at exploring the causes of the disease and identifying treatments that can counteract the neurodegenerative process.
The research was funded by the Ministry of Health, the Ente Cassa di Risparmio Foundation in Florence, the Region of Tuscany, the Umberto Veronesi Foundation and the Michael J. Fox Foundation.