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Faulty enzyme sparks Parkinson’s disease

Thursday June 23, 2005

June 22, 2005(ScienceDaily) - Parkinson’s disease is caused by a faulty enzyme that causes brain proteins to clump -- much like Alzheimer’s or Huntington’s disease, Texas researchers say.

Parkinson’s is "a disease involving accumulation of a protein in an aberrant form," said Philip Thomas, lead researcher at the University of Texas’ Southwestern Medical Center.

Normally, the protein involved in Parkinson’s, alpha-synuclein, unfolds when it is stressed and is chewed into harmless bits by an enzyme.

However, that enzyme malfunctions in Parkinson’s patients and creates protein fragments that clump, and those protein clusters cause more clumps in "vicious cycle" of the degenerative disease, scientists said.

Thomas, reporting in The Journal of Biological Chemistry, said future research may involve ways to inhibit the malicious form of the enzyme while leaving the normal form alone since the enzyme is essential for cells to survive.