Scientists at The University of Bedfordshire say they have made a breakthrough which could one day help find a cure for Parkinson's disease.
The team say they have established, for the first time, that the illness works by overloading peoples' brain cells with toxins, causing the cells to die. They hope that with a better understanding of how Parkinson's develops, they might eventually be able to protect against the harmful process and stop the illness altogether.
The scientists made the discovery in a lab in Luton, where they have been doing stem cell research. They found that the toxins occur in everyone, and that the body is normally able to manage them. However, when these toxins develop in people with Parkinson's their neurons are damaged - a process known as Oxidative Stress. It is the Oxidative Stress which causes brain cells to die, disrupting movement and balance.
Dr Bushra Ahmed, from the Department of Life Sciences, said:
– Dr Bushra Ahmed, Department of Life Sciences, University of Bedfordshire
"My aim was to identify what specific elements inside the cell are responsible for cell death in this way. What we have found far exceeded expectations in terms of firmly identifying the key factors in the causes of Parkinson's disease.
"This research is undoubtedly a great leap forward in the race for a cure, as we can now begin to develop methods of protecting these areas and preventing the damage synonymous with this condition."
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