July 26, 2018 – Overreaction


Anchor lead: Some cells that are overreacting in the brain may be the culprit in Parkinson’s disease, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Your brain has what amounts to a specialized immune system, with two cell types, known as microglia and astrocytes, responsible for monitoring things continuously and taking action when things go awry. Ted Dawson, a Parkinson’s disease expert at Johns Hopkins and senior author of a recent paper in Nature Medicine, says this may be the mechanism by which Parkinson’s develops.

Dawson: When neurons are sick, for reasons we don’t fully understand, the microglia react in a bad way. And so it contributes to the degenerative process. When they react in a bad way to let’s say a sick neuron they turn on the astrocytes to also say hey, help me clean up this mess. And as part of that cleaning up the mess neurons are further destroyed because healthy neurons become innocent bystanders.   :28

Dawson is about to begin testing a drug that is very similar to ones already on the market to treat diabetes in Parkinson’s disease. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.