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Protein in Parkinson’s provokes the immune system

Immune cells treat bits of alpha-synuclein as intruders

By
1:25pm, June 21, 2017
alpha-synuclein protein in nerve cells

RED ALERT  This micrograph shows how the protein alpha-synuclein (red) builds up in nerve cells (blue) in brains affected by Parkinson’s disease. The immune system can react to parts of the protein, a new study finds.

Bits of a protein that builds up in Parkinson’s disease trigger the immune system, causing it to tag them as foreign invaders.

In a blood test, immune cells called T cells became activated when exposed to the protein in about 40 percent of Parkinson’s patients in a new study. This autoimmune response may contribute to the progression of the disease, the researchers report online June 21 in Nature.

Neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s “have not really been thought of as autoimmune disorders,” says coauthor David Sulzer, a neuroscientist at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City. “The data strongly indicate that we better look at autoimmune responses as at least one of the links in the chain of developing Parkinson’s.”

Patients with Parkinson’s experience tremors and slowed movement, among

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