Finding Brings Scientists One Step Closer To Parkinson’s Drug

GRAND RAPIDS — The Van Andel Institute Wednesday announced that researchers at Lund University in Sweden have published a study detailing how Parkinson’s disease spreads through the brain. Experiments in rat models uncover a process previously used to explain mad cow disease, in which misfolded proteins travel from sick to healthy cells.

“A major unmet medical need is a therapy that slows disease progression,” said Patrik Brundin M.D., Jay Van Andel Endowed Chair in Parkinson’s Research at Van Andel Research Institute, Head of the Neuronal Survival Unit at Lund University and senior author of the study. “We aim to better understand how Parkinson’s pathology progresses and thereby uncover novel molecular targets for disease-modifying treatments.”

Previous research demonstrates that a misfolded protein gradually appears in healthy neurons transplanted to the brains of Parkinson’s patients. In the current study, published this week in the Public Library of Science (PLoS) One, researchers were able to follow events in the recipient cell as it accepts the diseased protein. The experiments also show how the transferred proteins attract proteins in the host cell leading to abnormal folding or “clumping” inside the cells.

“This is a cellular process likely to lead to the disease process as Parkinson’s progresses, and it spreads to an increasing number of brain regions as the patient gets sicker,” said Elodie Angot, Ph.D., of Lund University’s Neuronal Survival Unit, and lead author of the study.

To view the full study, visit

More about the Van Andel Institute at


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