Elevated lipid levels in brain could be Parkinson’s red flag

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Human Brain
Human Brain

Parkinson’s Disease is known to be a disease of aging, some of these fats are found in aging brains too

Elevated levels of some lipids in the brain could be the first signs of Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Researchers at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate, and Oxford University have reported this finding in the April 29 online edition of Neurobiology of Aging.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative, progressive disorder characterized by the dramatic reduction of nerve cells. The worst affected are neurons that secrete dopamine a crucial molecule that helps nerve cells communicate with each other. Loss of these nerve cells has been attributed to the toxic accumulation of a protein called alpha-synuclein.

“Lipid accumulation may also be important in PD, and scientists at the Neuroregeneration Research Institute at McLean Hospital have previously shown that there is an elevation of a class of lipids, called glycosphingolipids, in the substantia nigra (a part of the brain) of patients with PD,” said Ole Isacson, MD, PhD, professor of Neurology and Neuroscience at Harvard Medical School, co-director of the Neuroregeneration Research Institute at McLean Hospital, and co-senior author of the study.

These findings show that both genetics and aging can cause the same lipid elevations in the brain that are demonstrated in Parkinson’s disease pathology.

Aging is the most significant risk factor for developing PD. Therefore teams from McLean Hospital and the University of Oxford laboratory of Professor Frances M. Platt, PhD, FMedSci, collaborated to measure the levels of glycosphingolipids in the aging brain. They found that the same glycosphingolipids that are increased in the brains of Parkinson’s disease patients are also elevated in the brains of aging mice.

These findings show that both genetics and aging can cause the same lipid elevations in the brain that are demonstrated in Parkinson’s disease pathology.

“These results lead to a new hypothesis that lipid alterations may create a number of problems inside nerve cells in degenerative aging and Parkinson’s disease, and that these changes may precede some of the more obvious hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease, such as protein aggregates,” said Penny Hallett, study lead author and co-director of McLean’s Neuroregeneration Research Institute.

“This potentially provides an opportunity to treat lipid changes early on in Parkinson’s disease and protect nerve cells from dying, as well as the chance to use the lipid levels as biomarkers for patients at risk,” she added.

 

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