04:27pm Saturday 23 September 2017

New Study Supports View that Lewy Bodies Are Not the Primary Cause of Cell Death in Parkinson’s Disease

The pathology of Parkinson’s disease is characterized by a loss of dopamine-producing neurons in the pars compacta of the substantia nigra (SN), an area of the brain associated with motor control, along with the development of α-synuclein (αS) protein in the form of Lewy bodies (LB) in the neurons that survive.  The spread of LB pathology is thought to progress along with the clinical course of Parkinson’s disease, although recent studies suggest that they are not the toxic cause of cell death.  A new study published in The Journal of Parkinson’s Disease finds no support for a primary pathogenic role of LBs, as neither their distribution nor density was associated with the severity of nigral cell loss. 

“We investigated the relationship between nigral dopaminergic cell loss, distribution and density of α-synuclein immunoreactive LBs, and the duration of motor symptoms in 97 patients with Parkinson’s disease,” explains lead investigator Andrew J. Lees, MD, of Queen Square Brain Bank for Neurological Disorders and the Reta Lila Weston Institute for Neurological Studies, UCL Institute of Neurology, London, UK.  “Despite the reasonably close correlation between neuronal density in SN and severity of bradykinesia and rigidity in Parkinson’s disease, our results suggest that nigral cell loss is gradual and there is considerable variability, which may explain the clinical heterogeneity.”

Researchers confirmed that both neuronal number and density in SN in Parkinson’s disease decrease over time.  The density of nigral neurons was estimated to decrease by 2% each year after confirmation of the clinical diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, but showed marked heterogeneity across patients.  Some patients with longer duration of illness still had a significant number of preserved nigral neurons at the time of death.  An average of 15% of surviving nigral neurons contained LBs and the age-adjusted proportion of LB-bearing neurons appeared relatively stable through the disease duration.  “This could be explained by a passive ‘one-pass’ phenomenon where the LBs appear at the beginning of the disease and then decrease at the same rate as nigral neurons are lost, or alternatively that a dynamic ‘turnover’ occurs with some LBs continuously produced and destroyed at the same rate,” explains Dr. Lees.

Nigral neuron density was unrelated to the Braak PD stage of the disease (i.e. distribution of LBs in the brain) or to cortical LB densities.  “In our view, the fact that neither the widespread regional distribution of LBs nor increased cortical LB densities were found directly linked with pars compacta nigral cell loss lends support to the view that they are not the primary cause of the pathological process leading to cell death in vulnerable regions in the brain in Parkinson’s disease,” concludes Dr. Lees.

The article is “Disentangling the Relationship between Lewy Bodies and Nigral Neuronal Loss in Parkinson’s Disease” by Laura Parkkinen, Sean S O’Sullivan, Catherine Collins, Aviva Petrie, Janice L. Holton, Tamas Revesz, and Andrew J. Lees. Journal of Parkinson’s Disease. 1(2011) 277-286. DOI 10.3233/JPD-2011-11046. Published by IOS Press.

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NOTES FOR EDITORS

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists.  Contact: Daphne Watrin, IOS Press, Tel: +31 20 688 3355, d.watrin@iospress.nl. Journalists wishing to interview the authors should contact Laura Parkkinen, PhD, at: +44 (0)1865 231700 or laura.parkkinen@clneuro.ox.ac.uk.

ABOUT THE JOURNAL OF PARKINSON’S DISEASE (JPD)

Launched in June 2011 the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease is dedicated to providing an open forum for original research in basic science, translational research and clinical medicine that will expedite our fundamental understanding and improve treatment of Parkinson’s disease. The journal is international and multidisciplinary and aims to promote progress in the epidemiology, etiology, genetics, molecular correlates, pathogenesis, pharmacology, psychology, diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s disease. It publishes research reports, reviews, short communications, and letters-to-the-editor and offers very rapid publication and an affordable open access option. www.journalofparkinsonsdisease.com

ABOUT IOS PRESS

Commencing its publishing activities in 1987, IOS Press (www.iospress.nl) serves the information needs of scientific and medical communities worldwide. IOS Press now (co-)publishes over 100 international journals and about 130 book titles each year on subjects ranging from computer sciences and mathematics to medicine and the natural sciences.

IOS Press continues its rapid growth, embracing new technologies for the timely dissemination of information. All journals are available electronically and an e-book platform was launched in 2005.

Headquartered in Amsterdam with satellite offices in the USA, Germany, India and China, IOS Press has established several strategic co-publishing initiatives. Notable acquisitions included Delft University Press in 2005 and Millpress Science Publishers in 2008.


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