Health Desk: 20 February 2018: Excess levels of calcium in brain cells may lead to the formation of toxic clusters that are the hallmark of Parkinson’s disease, according to a study.
Researchers led by the University of Cambridge in the UK found that calcium can mediate the interaction between small membranous structures inside nerve endings, which are important for neuronal signaling in the brain, and alpha-synuclein, the protein associated with Parkinson’s disease.
Excess levels of either calcium or alpha-synuclein may be what starts the chain reaction that leads to the death of brain cells. The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, represent another step towards understanding how and why people develop Parkinson’s.
Parkinson’s disease is one of a number of neurodegenerative diseases caused when naturally occurring proteins fold into the wrong shape and stick together with other proteins, eventually forming thin filament-like structures called amyloid fibrils.
These amyloid deposits of aggregated alpha-synuclein, also known as Lewy bodies, are the sign of Parkinson’s disease. It has not been clear until now what alpha-synuclein actually does in the cell.