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Research casts doubt on Parkinson’s disease treatment

By Susan Berger, Special to the Tribune www.chicagotribune.com

Recent study finds that increase in a brain protein can worsen symptoms, opposite what doctors have long believed

A recent study questions long-held assumptions about the way a brain protein affects the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers in 1997 linked Parkinson’s with the protein alpha-synuclein. They began looking for ways to block it to slow the progression of the disease, which is characterized by such symptoms as tremors, rigidity, trouble walking and slowness of movement and affects more than a million Americans.

Demetrius Maraganore, a neurologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, has been working with Mayo Clinic researchers to study that brain protein, focusing on its relationship to two key effects of Parkinson’s disease: motor and cognitive impairment and dementia.

Maraganore said the recently released study of 1,098 Mayo patients over 15 years suggests that lowering alpha-synuclein may have the opposite effect of what doctors have long thought. Rather than help, that treatment may increase the risk of Parkinson’s patients becoming physically incapacitated and demented, he said.

The study found that patients with a lower amount of alpha-synuclein had a 23 percent greater risk of becoming wheelchair dependent or developing dementia, Maraganore said. The finding runs counter to a clinical trial underway in Vienna that’s designed to reduce alpha synuclein in Parkinson’s patients. Read the rest of the article here.

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