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Study supports urate protection against Parkinson's disease, hints at novel mechanism
Date:5/23/2012

Use of the antioxidant urate to protect against the neurodegeneration caused by Parkinson's disease appears to rely on more than urate's ability to protect against oxidative damage. In the May issue of the open-access journal PLoS One, researchers from the MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases (MGH-MIND) describe experiments suggesting the involvement of a novel mechanism in urate's protection of cultured brain cells against Parkinson's-like damage.

"Our experiments showed, unexpectedly, that urate's ability to protect neurons requires the presence of neighboring cells called astrocytes," says Michael Schwarzschild, MD, PhD, of MGH-MIND, the study's senior author. "The results suggest there may be multiple ways that raising urate could help protect against neurodegeneration in diseases like Parkinson's and further support the development of treatments designed to elevate urate in the brain." Schwarzschild and colleagues in the Parkinson's Study Group currently are conducting a clinical trial investigating one approach to that strategy.

Characterized by tremors, rigidity, difficulty walking and other symptoms, Parkinson's disease is caused by destruction of brain cells that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. Several epidemiological studies suggested that healthy people with elevated levels of urate, a normal component of the blood, may have a reduced risk of developing Parkinson's disease, and investigations by Schwarzschild's team found that Parkinson's patients with higher naturally occuring urate levels had slower progression of their symptoms.

The current study was designed to investigate whether both added urate and urate already present within the cells protect cultured dopamine-producing neurons against Parkinson-like degeneration. In addition, since previous studies suggested that urate's protective effects depended on the presence of astrocytes star-shaped cells of the central nervous system
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Contact: Mike Morrison
mdmorrison@partners.org
617-724-6425
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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