A possible cure for debilitating Parkinson's may not be as far away after scientists from Iowa State University recently made a novel discovery.
Parkinson's disease sufferers lack a sufficient amount of a brain chemical called dopamine.
Lead researcher Anumantha Kanthasamy, a distinguished professor of biomedical sciences and W. Eugene and Linda R. Lloyd Endowed Chair in Neurotoxicology at the ISU College of Veterinary Medicine, has shown that there is specific protein that is naturally present in human brains that kills the brain cells that make dopamine.
The novel protein known as protein kinase-C (specifically PKCd) is killing cells that produce the needed dopamine.
"We have millions of cells in our brains. In Parkinson's, about 10,000 of these brain cells die; no one knows why," said Kanthasamy.
The research team has also discovered a compound that neutralizes the cell-killing kinase-C and allows the dopamine-producing cells to survive and function.
"With a lot of hard work, and little bit of luck, we found something important," he said.
"And when you find something like this you say, 'This is great because it can be a target for developing new drugs,'" he added.
The researchers are now looking for additional compounds that also can serve to neutralize protein kinase-C. By identifying more compounds that perform the function of neutralizing kinase-C, researchers are more likely to locate one that works well and has few side effects.
This discovery is expected to provide new treatment options to stop the progression of the disease or even cure it.