Researchers in Texas have found a molecule which may harm the brain areas involved in Parkinson's disease. There is no firm diagnostic test for Parkinson's disease - the doctor has to rely on the clinical examination of the patient. But it's known that cells producing a chemical called dopamine - which controls muscle activity - in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra slowly die as the condition progresses. What kills these cells?
Researchers at the University of Texas have been studying a group of molecules known as the TIQs, for short, which seem to have a toxic effect on the brain. In autopsy studies of Parkinson's patients, compared to those of patients without the disease, they found high concentrations of a related molecule called ADTIQ. It was particularly localised in the substantia nigra, and so it may be an important clue as to how the cells here die - ADTIQ may be exerting a toxic effect.
If the TIQs could be detected in blood, say, or urine, this could form the basis of a diagnostic test for Parkinson's. And blocking its action could turn out to be a useful new form of therapy.