Researchers at the Institute of Biotechnology and Biomedicine (IBB) of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain analyzed over 14,000 molecules looking to find one that interferes with the aggregation of alpha-synuclein in the brain. During an extensive review, they identified the SynuClean-D molecule, which was found to not only inhibit the aggregation of alpha-synuclein protein but also to break apart clusters formed in the complex amyloid fibers of the brain. As a result, SynuClean-D was able to prevent the initiation of the process causing the development of Parkinson’s disease (PD).1
In other words, the study offers initial hope, that if confirmed effective in humans, SynuClean-D might be able to stop PD from affecting people in the first place.
Parkinson’s disease, the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s, has no known cause and no known cure. Yet advances in medical research continue to identify components of disease development and progression that may yield information that could lead to an effective treatment or prevention.
Parkinson’s is characterized by the aggregation of proteins in the brain, known as alpha-synuclein. It is the major component of the protein clumps that are the pathological hallmark of Parkinson’s disease, according to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research.
These complex aggregated deposits in the amyloid fibers of the brain make it difficult to identify molecules that could potentially prevent or reverse the neurodegenerative process.1 Researchers continue to investigate alpha-synuclein to better understand its role in Parkinson’s and as an agent for neuroprotective therapies.
SynuClean-D research findings
The research on SynuClean-D was conducted using the Caenorhabditis elegans worm, a common animal model used to investigate neurodegenerative diseases. The methodology identified one small molecule that was found to significantly reduce alpha-synuclein clumping.2 This prevented the depletion of dopamine due to the death or destruction of neurons in the brain.
The worms were fed the molecule in their food. The effect was to observe improved mobility and neural degeneration protection.1 Further research will be needed to see if SynuClean-D has the same effect on humans.
Current treatment options don’t prevent the onset of PD, they just treat the symptoms. Medical/pharmacological management of Parkinson’s is aimed at controlling the motor and non-motor symptoms. These treatments can become less effective over time.
There is a lack of effective therapies for neurodegenerative conditions. This presents a medical challenge. As the overall population ages and people are living longer, there is a higher incidence of developing Parkinson’s and other similar conditions. Until now only palliative treatments, those that replace the lack of dopamine have been available. The goal is to identify disease-modifying options. Many Parkinson’s research institutes are evaluating different approaches to treating or stemming the development of PD.
SynuClean-D has been shown to bind to αlpha-synuclein fibrils (slender fibers) and, displays disaggregation activity, that is, it breaks up the clumping of the proteins.2 If SynuClean-D can “halt and revert”—eliminate or reduce the clumping of alpha-synuclein proteins—it can impact the progression or prevention of not just PD, but of Lewy Body disease, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative conditions. The hope is that it can also prevent initiation of the process that causes the onset of Parkinson’s and perhaps other neurodegenerative diseases.3
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. Molecule capable of halting and reverting Parkinson's neurodegeneration identified. ScienceDaily. Available at: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180925110028.htm Accessed 10/23/2018.
Pujols J, Peña-díaz S, Lázaro DF, et al. Small molecule inhibits α-synuclein aggregation, disrupts amyloid fibrils, and prevents degeneration of dopaminergic neurons. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2018;115(41):10481-10486. Accessed 10/23/2018.
Molecule capable of halting and reverting Parkinson’s neurodegeneration identified. Available at: https://www.firstwordpharma.com/node/1593211. Accessed 10/23/2018.