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Researchers Identify Immune Gene That Can Prevent Parkinson's Disease And Dementia

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To date, health experts estimate there are around seven to 10 million people diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (PD) worldwide. This nervous system disease affects not just the senior population but also people between the ages of 40 and 60. The disease is characterized by the degeneration of the brain's basal ganglia and the deficiency of a neurotransmitter called dopamine.

Hereditary gene mutations have been known to play a part in the development of PD. A new research found that non-inherited PD can be traced to the functional changes in the Interferon-beta (IFN beta), an immune regulating gene.

There are around 100 billion neurons in a human brain. These neurons coordinate the activities in all parts of the human body. Researchers found that IFN beta is partly responsible in the health of neurons.

Assistant Professor Patrick Ejlerskov from the University of Copenhagen explained neurons need the IFN beta gene to recycle waste proteins. Without the IFN beta gene, waste proteins are forced to accumulate in Lewy bodies. In time, waste proteins in these disease-associated structures die.

In tests, mice that do not possess the IFN beta gene soon developed Lewy bodies in various parts of the brain. The mice's ability to restore memory and control bodily movement were significantly affected. In time, the mice developed clinical symptoms similar to dementia and PD patients who have Lewy bodies. The authors published their findings in the journal Cell on Oct. 8.

"When we introduced IFNbeta-gene therapy, we could prevent neuronal death and disease development. Our hope is that this knowledge will enable development of more effective treatment of PD," said University of Copenhagen's Professor Shohreh Issazadeh-Navikas, one of the study authors.

In a related study, researchers from the University of Rostock in Germany found that a person's birth month may affect the chances of developing dementia. Demographers Gabriele Doblhammer and Thomas Fritze conducted an in-depth analysis of data procured from the country's biggest public health insurer, Allgemeine Ortskrankenkasse. They found babies born from December to February are less likely to develop dementia by seven percent compared to babies born from June to August.

University of Bristol's Gerard van den Berg studied the co-relation of economic circumstances on general health. He commended that birth month marks environmental conditions that could affect health. A child's age during his or her first winter can be a marker when tracing early respiratory infections. Pollutants during a child's formative years also play a role. These factors are believed to have permanent effects on a person's immune system that can increase risk of illness development. The same can be said for dementia.

Buried trauma and life shocks can damage a person's brain health in the long run. These circumstances often affect a person's lifestyle choices. The link between birth month and dementia is important as a person's first few months on Earth highlight initial life circumstances like poor nutrition that can affect brain development.

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