Together with an international team of scientists, researchers at the University of Cambridge in England have discovered that high levels of calcium in brain cells may lead to toxic clusters that are the hallmark of Parkinson’s disease. This discovery could lead to a better understanding of Parkinson’s.
According to researchers, calcium plays a role in the interaction between alpha-synuclein – the protein associated with Parkinson's disease – and small structures in nerve endings that affect neuron signals in the brain. High levels of calcium or alpha-synuclein are believed to be what begins the chain reaction that leads to the death of brain cells in Parkinson’s. The damage occurs when proteins fold into the wrong shape and stick together.
Developing a better understanding of this process may lead to new prevention strategies and treatments for Parkinson’s. For example, medications used to block calcium in patients with heart disease may also help fight Parkinson’s disease. Results of this study were published in Nature Communications.