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A vaccine approach to treating Parkinson's disease

San Diego, Calif. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine working with scientists at Elan Pharmaceuticals, have reported promising results in mice of a vaccine approach to treating Parkinson's and similar diseases. These results appear in the June edition of the journal Neuron.

Eliezer Masliah, M.D., Professor of Neurosciences and Pathology at UCSD, and colleagues at UCSD and Elan Pharmaceuticals in San Francisco, vaccinated mice using a a combination of the protein that abnormally accumulates in the brains of Parkinson's (called human alpha-synuclein) and an adjuvant. This approach resulted in the generation of anti-alpha synuclein antibodies in mice that are specially bred by Masliah's team to simulate Parkinson's disease, resulting in reduced build-up of abnormal alpha-synuclein. The accumulation of abnormal alpha-synuclein is associated with degeneration of nerve cells and interference with normal inter-cellular communication, leading to Parkinson's disease and dementia.

The work marks the first time a vaccine for this family of diseases has been found effective in animal studies. Scientists at Elan Pharmaceuticals have been working for the past few years in a vaccine for Alzheimer's Disease.

The researchers focused on a spectrum of neurological disorders called Lewy body disease, which include Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. These disorders are marked by the presence of Lewy bodies -- abnormal clumps of alpha-synuclein -- in the brain. Normally, alpha-synuclein proteins support communications between brain cells, or neurons. However, when abnormal proteins clump together in the neurons, a build-up of synuclein can cut off neuron activity, blocking normal signaling between brain cells and ultimately choking the cells to death.

"We found that the antibodies produced by the vaccinated mice recognized and reduced only the abnormal form of alpha-synuclein, since the protein's normal form i
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Contact: Leslie Franz
lfranz@ucsd.edu
619-543-6163
University of California - San Diego
15-Jun-2005


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