Exercise prevents Parkinson's symptoms in lab model mimicking human form of the disease

amage caused by environmental toxins, said Richard J. Smeyne, Ph.D., associate member in St. Jude Developmental Neurobiology. Smeyne is senior author of the Molecular Brain Research report.

"If we can extend these findings to humans we could suggest that it's never too late for adults to benefit from the protection exercise offers against damage to the substantia nigra caused by environmental toxins," said Smeyne, who is the editor of the special Molecular Brain Research issue.

Moreover, increasing GDNF levels through exercise might also confer protection against stroke, seizures and other brain disorders that are also caused by free radical damage. Although GDNF is found only in the brain, previous research by others has found that exercise somehow protects the heart from free radical damage.

"So exercise, one way or the other, seems to be an extremely good investment in one's health," Smeyne said.

The study initially investigated whether a so-called enriched environment (EE) could protect mice treated with MPTP. The EE included exercise wheels, companionship of other mice and a tunnel with a configuration that researchers changed weekly to provide mental stimulation. The researchers found that mice using the exercise wheels ran about two kilometers a day.

The St. Jude researchers raised female mice in standard cages without running wheels before placing them into cages with wheels. Control mice were kept in standard cages without running wheels throughout the study. After three months, the amount of GDNF in the SN of mice in the EE cages increased 350 percent over the level found in the control mice kept in standard cages.

Subsequently, animals were injected with MPTP at 5-7 months of age--about a third of their normal life span. This triggered an additional 180 percent increase in GDNF over the already increased level in EE animals. The St. Jude team found

Contact: Bonnie Cameron
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

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