Other neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, ALS and Huntington’s disease, are also caused by certain amyloid structures interfering in the brain. The team is therefore keen to research this topic further, to see if the discovery relating to Parkinson’s disease could have implications for other neurodegenerative disorders as well. Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede stresses the importance of finding ways to combat these neurological conditions in the future:
“These diseases come with age, and people are living longer and longer. There’s going to be an explosion of these diseases in the future – and the scary part is that we currently have no cures. So we need to follow up on anything that looks promising.”
A follow up study, looking at parvalbumin from another angle, is indeed planned for this autumn. Nathalie Scheers, together with Professor Ingrid Undeland, also of Chalmers, will investigate parvalbumin from herring, and its transport in human tissues.
“It will be very interesting to study how parvalbumin distributes within human tissues in more depth. There could be some really exciting results.”
More About: Fish and Better Neurological Health
The link between higher consumption of fish and better long-term health for the brain has been long established. There is correlation between certain diets and decreased rates of Parkinson’s disease – as well as other neurodegenerative conditions. “Among those who follow a Mediterranean diet, with more fish, one sees lower rates of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s,” says Tony Werner, a PhD student in the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering, and lead researcher on the study. This has also been observed in Japan, where seafood forms a central part of the diet. The team is careful to note that no definite links can be established at this point, however.
More About: Amyloids and Aggregation
Proteins are long chains of amino acids that fold into specific structures to carry out their function. But sometimes, proteins can fold incorrectly, and get tangled up with other proteins, a process known as aggregation. As these misfolded proteins aggregate together, they create long fibrous structures known as amyloids. Amyloids are not necessarily a bad thing, but can be responsible for various diseases. Some of them can interfere with neurons in the brain, killing those cells, and causing a variety of neurodegenerative conditions.
More About: The Study
Nathalie Scheers had looked at parvalbumin before in another context.
“I was on a previous study where we looked at possible compliance markers for fish intake. Parvalbumin is a cause of fish allergies, so we knew that it passed over to the blood, and that this form of parvalbumin is specific for fish”
She joined forces with Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, and together they took the idea forward.
“Because Nathalie had previously shown that parvalbumin passes into the body of the person eating fish, it made sense to study its interaction with human proteins. We already knew that they can meet in the gut, the blood, or the brain,” explains Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede.