“A Surprising Clue to Parkinson’s” (MIT Technology Review)

I saw an article in the May/June ’06 issue of Technology Review, an MIT publication, related to protein aggregations in those with PD and other diseases. What I found interesting was the fact that there is not scientific agreement over whether abnormal protein aggregations in the brain are a bad thing. The author says that the MIT biotechnology study demonstrates “that increased protein aggregation can improve the health of cells modeling neurodegenerative disease.”

That led to a related article published on the Technology Review’s website on 3/7/06. Excerpts from that March article:

“It’s easy to distinguish a healthy person from a person with advanced Parkinson’s: the Parkinson’s sufferer has large clumps of proteins in his or her brain cells. Scientists disagree, however, about the nature of these clumps. Some contend that they lead to the massive neuronal cell death and resulting movement disorders in Parkinson’s, others that the clumps are merely a byproduct of the disease — and some scientists contend that the clumps are actually protective, sequestering toxic proteins so they can’t hurt the cell. Mounting evidence points to the last possibility.”

“Existing research already suggests that the biggest clumps, known as inclusions, are helpful. Cells that form clumps of the mutant Huntington protein, for example, survive longer than clump-free cells. Now MIT scientists have discovered a compound that increases clumps in cell models of Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease and makes the cells healthier. Scientists aren’t sure how the compound works, but they think it might be helping cells get rid of toxic forms of the proteins floating around in the cell by isolating them into clumps.”

Here’s a link to the older article:


A Surprising Clue to Parkinson’s
Drugs that boost the protein clumping that occurs during neurodegenerative disease could provide a new route to treatment.
Technology Review (MIT)
By Emily Singer
March 7, 2006

And a link to the newer article:


A Curious Clue to Parkinson’s
Drugs that boost protein aggregation could provide a new route to treatment
Technology Review (MIT)
May/June 2006