An estimated seven to ten million people worldwide are living with Parkinson's disease (PD), which is an incurable and progressive disease of the nervous system affecting movement and cognitive function. More than half of PD patients develop progressive disease showing signs of dementia similar to Alzheimer's disease. A research team at University of Copenhagen, Denmark, has discovered that non-inheritable PD may be caused by functional changes in the immune regulating gene Interferon-beta (IFNβ) (image). Treatment with IFNβ-gene therapy successfully prevented neuronal death and disease effects in an experimental model of PD. The results were published in the October 8, 2015 issue of the prestigious journal Cell. The Cell article is titled “Lack of Neuronal IFN-β-IFNAR Causes Lewy Body- and Parkinson’s Disease-Like Dementia.” The human brain consists of approximately 100 billion neurons, which coordinate activities in all parts of the body. At the Biotech Research and Innovation Centre (BRIC), University of Copenhagen, the group of Professor Shohreh Issazadeh-Navikas has discovered that the immune gene IFNβ plays a vital role in keeping neurons healthy. “We found that IFNβ is essential for neurons ability to recycle waste proteins. Without this, the waste proteins accumulate in disease-associated structures called Lewy bodies and, with time, the neurons die, explains Assistant Professor Patrick Ejlerskov, the first author of this report. The research team found that mice missing IFNβ developed Lewy bodies in parts of the brain that control body movement and restoration of memory, and, as a result, they developed disease and clinical signs similar to those of patients with PD and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB).
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