A team of researchers have created an artificial enzyme that could help form a new treatment for the neurodegenerative Parkinson’s disease.
The team from Johns Hopkins Medicine have created the enzyme which stops misfolded alpha-synuclein – the protein that causes Parkinson’s disease – from spreading. The alpha-synuclein protein travels from the gut to the brain where it sticks together in lethal clumps known as ‘Lewy bodies’ which cause brain cell death.
The study has been published in the journal Nano Today.
The artificial enzymes were created by the team for their antioxidant properties and are nanosized combinations of platinum and copper called ‘PtCu bimetallic nanoalloys’. The antioxidant capability is dependent largely on the alloy composition, say the researchers.
Senior study researcher Xiaobo Mao, assistant professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said: “Oxidative stress caused by reactive oxygen species is inescapable, and increases with age due to mechanistic slowdowns in processes such as protein degradation. This indicates the importance of antioxidants, because in Parkinson’s disease, roaming reactive oxygen species promote the spread of misfolded alpha-synuclein, leading to worse symptoms.”
How do they work?
The researchers say that the enzymes eat up reactive oxygen species once injected into the brain, which helps prevent damage to neurons.
In the researchers’ fibril model, which replicates the process of neurodegeneration from Lewy bodies, the nanoenzyme was found to decrease alpha-synuclein induced pathology and inhibit neurotoxicity, in addition to decreasing reactive oxygen species and preventing the alpha-synuclein from passing from cell to cell and from the substantia nigra to the dorsal striatum.
Mao has been collaborating in the past with Parkinson’s disease expert Ted Dawson, professor of neurology and director of the Institute for Cell Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who has added to the evidence that misfolded alpha-synuclein travels along the vagus nerve from the gut to the brain.
Mao hopes that further research can connect the two findings and lead to a Parkinson’s disease treatment that targets the gut. He said: “We know that the nanoenzymes work when injected directly into the brain. Now, we’d like to see if the nanoenzymes can block the disease progression induced by pathogenic alpha-synuclein traveling from the gut, across the blood-brain barrier and into the brain.”