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Is Parkinson's an autoimmune disease?
Date:4/17/2014

t MHC-1 proteins were present in two types of neurons. These two types of neuronsone of which is dopamine neurons in a brain region called the substantia nigradegenerate during Parkinson's disease.

To see if living neurons use MHC-1 to display antigens (and not for some other purpose), Drs. Sulzer and Cebrin conducted in vitro experiments with mouse neurons and human neurons created from embryonic stem cells. The studies showed that under certain circumstancesincluding conditions known to occur in Parkinson'sthe neurons use MHC-1 to display antigens. Among the different types of neurons tested, the two types affected in Parkinson's were far more responsive than other neurons to signals that triggered antigen display.

The researchers then confirmed that T cells recognized and attacked neurons displaying specific antigens.

The results raise the possibility that Parkinson's is partly an autoimmune disease, Dr. Sulzer says, but more research is needed to confirm the idea.

"Right now, we've showed that certain neurons display antigens and that T cells can recognize these antigens and kill neurons," Dr. Sulzer says, "but we still need to determine whether this is actually happening in people. We need to show that there are certain T cells in Parkinson's patients that can attack their neurons."

If the immune system does kill neurons in Parkinson's disease, Dr. Sulzer cautions that it is not the only thing going awry in the disease. "This idea may explain the final step," he says. "We don't know if preventing the death of neurons at this point will leave people with sick cells and no change in their symptoms, or not."


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Contact: Ann Rae Jonas or Doug Levy
cumcnews@columbia.edu
212-305-3900
Columbia University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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