amine neurons. The truth is, if you look at postmortem Parkinson's disease brains, you will see that both dopamine and norepinephrine neurons are gone," Dr. Weinshenker explains. "We know that norepinephrine is important for regulating the activity of dopamine neurons, so we suspected that the dopamine neurons and the norepinephrine neurons function in concert. As the dopamine neurons start dying, the norepinephrine neurons compensate by signaling the surviving dopamine cells to dramatically increase their activity and the output of dopamine. Eventually, the norepineprhine neurons die, the surviving dopamine neurons lose their ability to release extra dopamine, and symptoms start to appear."
To test their hypothesis, the researchers gave healthy, one-year-old mice the neurotoxin 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetra-hydropyridine (MPTP) at a dose that kills about 80 percent of the dopamine cells, but observed no motor impairments in the mice. Surprisingly, when they tested mice unable to synthesize norepinephrine and that have trouble releasing dopamine properly, they observed symptoms of Parkinson's disease including resting tremor, hunched posture and deficits in coordinated movement. These results indicate that having a normal complement of dopamine neurons is not enough for normal motor function; norepinephrine also needs to be present to ensure proper dopamine release.
"Although there are no cures for Parkinson's disease, some moderately effective treatments are available, but most target the dopamine neurons only and are effective for only a limited amount of time. In light of this study, it's quite possible that simultaneously treating both the dopamine and norepinephrine loss could further ameliorate the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, says Dr. Weinshenker.
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Contact: Holly Korschun
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