Under the Hood

New Research Reveals Parkinson's May Start Before Birth

According to a new research made by Cedars-Sinai, people who develop Parkinson’s disease before they reach the age of 50 may have been born with brain cells that are disordered, which went undetected for decades. Following this, the research also pointed to a drug that can potentially curb the disease and help stop it.

Life-Changing Neurological Diseases

Parkinson’s, which is a common neurological disease for people aged 50 and over, occurs when the brain neurons that make dopamine (which besides making us feel good, also help coordinate muscle movement) become impaired and then die. This then leads to slowness of movement, loss of balance and tremors that continue to get worse over time. Per statistics, at least 500,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with the condition at an annual level, with the numbers steadily rising.

And while most of the people diagnosed are 60 or older, there’s a small portion (around 10 percent) that get diagnosed between the ages 21 and 50. The new study focuses on them and why they get the disease pretty early.

"Young-onset Parkinson's is especially heartbreaking because it strikes people at the prime of life. This exciting new research provides hope that one day we may be able to detect and take early action to prevent this disease in at-risk individuals,” Michele Tagliati, director of the Movement Disorders Program, vice chair and professor in the Department of Neurology at Cedars-Sinai and a co-author of the study, said.

To do the study, the researchers reportedly gathered special stem cells known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which are from young people that have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. These were then used to produce dopamine neurons from every patient, which were then analyzed.

From there, the scientists were able to detect two abnormalities: malfunctioning lysosomes and accumulation of a protein called alpha-synuclein, both of which have caused Parkinson’s symptoms to emerge early.

Following this, the team plans on investigating how PEP005 can be delivered to the brain to potentially treat the symptoms, or even completely prevent young-onset Parkinson’s disease. The team also plans on investigating whether these abnormalities can be found in other types of Parkinson’s.

Parkinson's breakthrough Researchers found that cognitive and motor functions are compromised in patients with Parkinson's disease causing neural-firing abnormalities. Photo courtesy of Nicolas Henri Jacob