α-synuclein, neurodegenerative disease
By the end of this decade, the baby boomer generation will be progressing well into their 60s. As this aging population rises, so, too, will the incidence of age-related neurodegenerative diseases. The demand for geriatric care will begin to rise, putting a strain on healthcare for the elderly, space available in care facilities, and family members. These diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gherig’s Disease), are still all incurable and fatal diseases. Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is caused by the death of a specific set of midbrain neurons that control voluntary movement. The accumulation of a misfolded form of the α-synuclein protein into structures called Lewy Bodies may be one toxic agent involved in the pathogenesis of the disease. Four exciting new studies have modeled the misfolding of α-synuclein in yeast. Examining this protein in other cellular systems may shed light on its toxic effects, bringing researchers closer to finding a cure.
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