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Exercise hormone could hold potential cure for Parkinson’s

Exercise hormone could hold potential cure for Parkinson’s

Scientists have found a hormone secreted during exercise that can reduce levels of a protein responsible for causing Parkinson’s in animal models
elderly couple exercising
Representational image | Shutterstock

Scientists have shown that a hormone produced during exercise – irisin – can counteract the accumulation of a protein linked to Parkinson’s Disease (PD), raising the hope for developing therapies to treat the dreaded neurological condition. 

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston confirmed irisin’s ability to prevent the clumping of alpha synuclein proteins in a study of mice engineered to have Parkinson’s symptoms. 

Their finding may also help answer why endurance exercise, or aerobic exercise, has for long been found to alleviate symptoms of PD and reduce the risk of developing the condition in the first place. 

Alpha synuclein, a protein that regulates mood and movements, is understood to form clumps in individuals with PD, killing dopamine-producing cells in the brain. 

To validate irisin’s ability to untangle alpha synuclein clumps, the researchers used mice that were engineered to carry Parkinson’s symptoms by injecting alpha synuclein into their brains. After two weeks the mice were injected with irisin protein, which can cross the blood-brain barrier, to study its effect on the alpha synuclein clumps. 

In laboratory models the researchers found that irisin had the ability to prevent clumps of alpha synuclein and associated brain cell death. 

Six months later, the mice injected with irisin were seen to have no movement deficits, while those mice that received a placebo showed deficits in grip strength and their ability to descend a pole. The researchers reported a 50-80% reduction in Parkinson’s symptoms in the animals injected with irisin, in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

If irisin’s utility pans out, we could envision it being developed into a gene or recombinant protein therapy,” said Ted Dawson, professor of neurology and director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering, and co-author of the study. 

Dawson, along with Bruce Spiegelman, a researcher at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, have filed for patents on the use of irisin in treating PD. Spiegelman has also founded a biotechnology company to develop irisin-based treatments for neurological conditions. 

“Given that irisin is a naturally produced peptide hormone and seems to have evolved to cross the blood brain-barrier, we think it is worth continuing to evaluate irisin as a potential therapy for Parkinson’s and other forms of neurodegeneration,” Spiegelman said in a statement. 

If the research pans out, it could potentially lead to a therapeutic approach to controlling and even reversing Parkinson’s and other neurological conditions, a sort of holy grail in the world of medical science. It also shows the complexity of the human body and the importance of shunning a sedentary lifestyle. 

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