Parkinson’s is one of the great diseases of the 21st century, the second most frequent neurodegenerative disease, and in Spain it threatens to double in two decades and triple by 2050.
Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the central nervous system in a chronic, progressive and disabling way in its most advanced stages. Clinically it is characterized by movement disorders to which they can be linked depression and emotional changes, which can appear even before motor disturbances.
According to data from the
Spanish Society of Neurology (SEN) 10,000 new cases are detected annually in Spain, where it is estimated that there are currently between 120,000 and 150,000 Parkinson’s patients, 70% of them over 65 years of age.
In fact, it has become the second most common neurodegenerative disease in this age group worldwide, after Alzheimer’s disease.
Although its incidence increases with age, Parkinson’s also occurs in adults under 50 years of age. What’s more, it can even appear in adolescence and childhood.
Parkinson’s disease is of unknown cause and arises from a complex interaction of genetic, metabolic and environmental factors, the main risk factor being age.
The disease affectsl brain tissue, more specifically to the dopaminergic neurons located in the substantia nigra. This area of the brainstem is specialized in the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, responsible for the modulation of the basal ganglia and the control of movement and behavior. Hence the tremor that we all identify as characteristic of Parkinson’s.
At present, there is no curative treatment for this disease that allows to recover the neuronal damage produced. Regarding pharmacological treatments, they mainly focus on improving the motor and behavioral symptoms of patients. Still, researchers in this field do not lose hope.
Among the different approaches made to understand and face the disease, our group has made a recent contribution to this field focused on the effect of a hormone related to insulin: the «insulin-growth-factor 2» (IGF-II), synthesized in many places in the body, including the nervous system.
The point is that this hormone is involved in the regulation of glucose, but also in other processes such as development and memory. Our group has shown that IGF-II also has an antioxidant and protective effect on neurons and liver cells in elderly animals.
On this basis, we have carried out a study in a cell model of Parkinson’s based on neuron cultures. In these studies, we demonstrated that IGF-II had a protective effect, reducing damage and neurodegeneration.
Protection may be a consequence of the antioxidant capacity of IGF-II together with a stabilizing effect of the mitochondria, a key organelle for the production of energy in our cells and essential for the maintenance of the functionalism of our neurons.
IGF-II is also capable of inducing nuclear factors that protect these neurons that release dopamine from cell damage.
The results in cultured cells were confirmed in a Parkinson’s model in mice, where we verified that the administration of this substance to the animals improved their motor behavior and behavior. Specifically, two types of experiments were carried out: in one of them IGF-II was administered once the disease had been induced, and in another at the same time that the damage was induced.
In the first experiment, we saw that IGF-II was able to stop the damage preventing the evolution of the disease. And in the second case, it directly prevented the appearance of the disease. In addition, the most striking thing is that, at the brain level and after only one month of treatment, IGF-II prevented the death of the dopaminergic neurons involved in Parkinson’s. Great news.
If the results are confirmed, this substance or perhaps one of its analogues could open the way to the establishment of a curative treatment. And if not curative, then at least capable of a substantial improvement in the symptoms of the disease.
Likewise, treatment with IGF-II or its analogues could delay the evolution of the disease, and could be administered as a preventive in cases of genetic Parkinson’s in which it is known that the pathology will develop.
Maria Garcia-Fernandez, Chair professor,
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