In the brains of people with Parkinson’s, there is an accumulation of alpha synuclein protein. 

It clusters and aggregates together forming dense circular objects inside neurons called Lewy bodies. This build up of alpha synuclein is believed to play a role in the neurodegeneration associated with Parkinson’s.

Researchers have previously conducted large screening studies to identify genes that could be influencing this aggregation of alpha synuclein, and a recently published study has validated one of these identified genes. The scientists (Cure Parkinson’s funded Professor Matthew Wood from Oxford University) investigated a gene called Doublecortin-like kinase 1 (or DCLK1) and found it to be an important regulator of alpha synuclein. 

When they reduced levels of the DCLK1 gene in cell cultured human neurons, they found that levels of alpha synuclein were also reduced. In addition, the investigators reported that decreasing DCLK1 activity in two different mouse models of Parkinson’s had beneficial effects. The researchers are now seeking to identify molecules that can be used to inhibit DCLK1 to assess if they might be useful in the treatment of Parkinson’s.

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