By Steve Tally:

A molecule has been identified that appears to play an important role in the development of Parkinson’s disease, a debilitating disease that affects millions of people around the world.

Chris Rochet and Riyi Shi
A key factor in the development of Parkinson’s disease has been identified by a team of researchers at Purdue University. Jean-Christophe (Chris) Rochet, professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology in the College of Pharmacy (left) and Dr. Riyi Shi, professor in the Department of Basic Medical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering. (Purdue University photo by Alex Kumar)

The discovery could lead to therapies, potentially including drugs currently on the market, and it could facilitate earlier diagnosis and prevention of the neurological disorder.

It’s a “good news, bad news, good news” development that bears watching.

First, good news: Researchers at Purdue University have identified a compound that accumulates in Parkinson’s disease-affected brain tissue. The compound, acrolein, is a toxic, foul-smelling byproduct of burning fat (the brain uses fat for fuel) and is normally eliminated from the body. But the research team has found that the substance can promote the build-up of a protein called alpha-synuclein. When this protein accumulates in a region of the brain called the substantia nigra, it destroys the cell membranes and key machineries of neurons, killing these brain cells.

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chris rochet, Indiana CTSI, parkinson's disease, Purdue, riyi shi, translational research