Parkinson’s may develop because of excess calcium in the brain

Before now little has been known about the role of calcium in brain cells signalling mechanisms. The study author, Dr. Gabriele Kaminski Schierle of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at the University of Cambridge, and his team used ‘super-resolution microscopy’ and ‘isolated synaptic vesicles’ to examine the behaviour of alpha-synuclein.

Using the new technology, the team were able to find when the level of calcium rises in the cell, which causes the vesicles to cluster.

The authors propose that the abnormal clusters of alpha-synuclein form when the balance between the protein and calcium is upset.

Speaking on the study Dr. Gabriele Kaminski Schierle explained that:

"Alpha-synuclein is a very small protein with very little structure, and it needs to interact with other proteins or structures in order to become functional, which has made it difficult to study."

Furtehr commenting on their findings, team member Dr. Janin Lautenschläger said:

"We think that alpha-synuclein is almost like a calcium sensor. In the presence of calcium, it changes its structure and how it interacts with its environment, which is likely very important for its normal function."

A more detailed understanding of the behaviour of alpha-synuclein may lead to drugs being developed for Parkinson’s disease.

The authors also noted that a drug that can block the calcium channel in heart disease could ‘prove to be a valuable candidate to act against [Parkinson's disease] via lowering intracellular calcium load.’

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