✍️ Author: Dr Eleni Christoforidou
🕒 Approximate reading time: 4 minutes
Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. Among the key players involved in this disease is a protein called alpha-synuclein. This blog post aims to shed light on alpha-synuclein, its role in Parkinson's disease and the potential it holds for future therapeutic strategies.
Alpha-synuclein is a protein that is abundant in the human brain. In healthy neurons, it contributes to the proper functioning of synaptic transmission. However, in certain circumstances, alpha-synuclein can adopt a misfolded form and aggregate, leading to the formation of clumps known as Lewy bodies, which are a characteristic hallmark of Parkinson's disease.
The precise function of alpha-synuclein is not fully understood, but its role in Parkinson's disease is undeniable. Research has shown that genetic mutations or multiplications in the SNCA gene, which codes for alpha-synuclein, can lead to familial forms of Parkinson's disease. Moreover, the presence of Lewy bodies containing alpha-synuclein in neurons of the substantia nigra, a brain region critically affected in Parkinson's disease, implicates this protein in the disease process.
In addition to genetic factors, environmental triggers, such as exposure to certain pesticides, have also been suggested to promote alpha-synuclein aggregation. The interplay between genetic and environmental factors is an active area of research aimed at understanding the complex mechanisms behind Parkinson's disease.
The central role of alpha-synuclein in Parkinson's disease has made it a prime target for therapeutic interventions. Current research is aimed at developing strategies to reduce alpha-synuclein aggregation or to enhance its clearance from the brain. These include small molecules, immunotherapy, gene therapy and cell-based approaches. Although these strategies are promising, further research is necessary to establish their safety and efficacy.
In conclusion, alpha-synuclein plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease. A deeper understanding of this protein and its interactions within neurons could unlock novel therapeutic strategies, offering hope to those affected by this debilitating disease.