Method found to halt progression of Parkinson’s disease

Professor Phil Hyu Lee
Yonsei University College of Medicine

■ Medicine /

Method found to halt progression of Parkinson’s disease

A research team led by Professor Phil Hyu Lee found a new way to counter the progression of irreversible Parkinson’s disease


A group of researchers at Yonsei have found a new way to counter the progression of irreversible Parkinson’s disease.

As toxic α-synuclein spreads and travels from one brain area to another, neurons degenerate and die. Thus, the progression of Parkinson’s disease is dependent on how well the α-synuclein proteins are controlled within the brain.

A team led by Professor Phil Hyu Lee at the Yonsei University Severance Hospital Department of Neurology transplanted human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) into animal models of Parkinson’s disease and observed that MSCs exert neuroprotective properties through inhibition of extracellular α-synuclein transmission between regions of the brain. The results of the study were published in the February 2016 online edition of Cell Reports.

Researchers compared the progression of α-synuclein pathology in mouse models of Parkinson’s disease injected with MSCs and a control group mice without MSC injection. Unlike the control group, Parkinson’s disease pathology did not progress in the MSC-injected experimental group with functional improvement of parkinsonian motor deficits.

Specifically, researchers found that the interaction between Galectin-1, a protein secreted by the MSCs, and NMDA receptors inhibited the transmission of aggregated α-synuclein in cellular and animal models.

“There is still no drug that can offset the neurologically degenerative effects of Parkinson’s disease,” said Professor Phil Hyu Lee. “But additional research may show that the utilization of NMDA receptors, similar to its current role in anticonvulsants and treatment for dementia, could possibly be developed into a drug that can delay the natural progression of Parkinson’s disease.”

Updated in Feb 2017

Reference
Oh, S. H., Kim, H. N., Park, H. J., Shin, J. Y., Bae, E.-J., Sunwoo, M. K., Lee, S.-J., Lee, P. H., “Mesenchymal Stem Cells Inhibit Transmission of α-Synuclein by Modulating Clathrin-Mediated Endocytosis in a Parkinsonian Model” Cell Reports, doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2015.12.075