Alpha-synuclein is one of the good guys

Aggregates of the protein alpha-synuclein, known as Lewy bodies, have long been connected to Parkinson’s disease and other forms of dementia.

However, a study published in the journal Scientific Reports puts things in a new light.

It suggests that these proteins perform a crucial function by repairing breaks that occur along the vast strands of DNA present in the nucleus of every cell of the body.

And this function may be lost in brain diseases such as Parkinson’s, leading to the widespread death of neurons.

“This is the first time that anyone has discovered one of its functions is DNA repair,” says first author Vivek Unni, a neurologist with Oregon Health & Science University, US. “That’s critical for cell survival, and it appears to be a function that’s lost in Parkinson’s disease.”

The findings, Unni says, suggest it may be possible to design new therapies to replace or boost alpha-synuclein’s function in people with neurodegenerative disorders.

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