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Parkinson’s disease could soon be history

Working with human neurons and fruit flies, researchers were able to identify and then shut down a biological process that seemed to trigger a particular form of Parkinson’s disease present in a large number of patients.

Ted Dawson, MD, PhD, professor of neurology and director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering, said drugs like L-dopa can, for a time, manage symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, but as the disease worsens, tremors give way to immobility and, in some cases, to dementia. Even with good treatment, the disease marches on.

Further evidence for a role of genetics in Parkinson’s disease appeared a decade ago when researchers identified key mutations in an enzyme known as leucine-rich repeat kinase 2, or LRRK2 — pronounced “lark2.” When that enzyme was cloned, Dawson, together with his wife and longtime collaborator Valina Dawson, PhD, professor of neurology and member of the Institute for Cell Engineering, discovered that LRRK2 was a kinase, a type of enzyme that transfers phosphate groups to proteins and turns proteins on or off to change their activity.

Over the years, it was found that blocking kinase activity in mutated LRRK2 halted degeneration, while enhancing it made things worse.

When Dawson’s team began to identify those proteins, Dawson says they were surprised to discover that many were linked to the cellular machinery, like ribosomes, that make proteins.


The team then tested the proteins they identified to see which of them, if any, LRRK2 could add phosphate groups to. They came up with three ribosomal protein candidates — s11, s15 and s27.


They then altered each ribosomal protein to see what would happen. It turned out that mutating s15 in a manner that blocked LRRK2 phosphorylation protected nerve cells taken from rats, humans and fruit flies from death. In other words, s15 appeared to be the much sought-after target of LRRK2, Dawson said.

Achilles’ heel of influenza discovered

Researchers have claimed to have discovered that influenza has an Achilles’ heel.
The study reveals that a drug that inhibits a molecule called prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) increases survival rates in mice infected with a lethal dose of the H1N1 flu virus.

Senior study author Maziar Divangahi of McGill University, said drugs that specifically target PGE2 pathways have already been developed and tested in animals, so their results have excellent potential for clinical translation, not only for the treatment of influenza, but also other viral respiratory infections that interact with similar host immune pathways.


In the new study, Divangahi and his team found that mice genetically engineered to lack PGE2 showed enhanced immune responses, lower viral levels in the lungs, and better survival rates following infection with a lethal dose of the H1N1 flu virus compared with infected mice that were not genetically modified. Similarly, mice treated with a compound that inhibits PGE2 showed enhanced antiviral immunity and survival rates following infection with a lethal dose of the flu virus compared with untreated mice.

Mystery behind runny noses finally revealed

Researchers have found out what causes one of the most common of ailments – the runny nose.

According to the scientists at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, your respiratory tract is under constant attack and the nose is the first line of defense. Often, especially as the weather warms, the assault comes from allergens, which cause the body to fight off a perceived threat.

Now, the CU team led by Thomas Finger has figured out what may be going on to cause so many people discomfort. Understanding the cause could lead to figuring out a cure.


Finger and his team found cells lining the noses of mice that may be key.These cells, called solitary chemosensory cells, detect potential irritants and pass along the alert to pain-sensing nerve terminals.

The nerves then release a substance that triggers the body’s defenses, called an inflammatory response. The result, among other things, is a runny nose and difficulty breathing.

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