Parkinson’s clues seen in tiny fish could aid quest for treatments

Parkinson’s clues seen in tiny fish could aid quest for treatments

 

Thursday, 4 April, 2019

Dr. Thomas Becker (Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences) and colleagues have published a study investigating Parkinson’s disease, a disorder in which specialised nerve cells in the brain which produce dopamine are permanently destroyed. When these nerve cells become damaged or die, the loss of dopamine could lead to impairment of body movements. Using zebrafish, the researchers, led by Dr. Becker, have found that the dopamine-producing nerve cells are constantly replaced by dedicated stem cells in the brain, and that the immune system plays a key role in this process. Interestingly, in some regions of a zebrafish’s brain, this process does not work. These findings have led the team to conclude that the immune system plays a key role in this replacement process, and that understanding immune signals that facilitate replacement of these nerve cells could provide vital clues to developing novel treatments for people.

Dr. Becker said: “We were excited to find that zebrafish have a much higher regenerative capacity for dopamine neurons than humans. Understanding the signals that underpin regeneration of these nerve cells could be important for identifying future treatments for Parkinson’s disease.”