95.3 / 88.5 FM Grand Rapids and 95.3 FM Muskegon
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Van Andel Institute marks Parkinson’s Awareness Month by sharing recent studies

Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Michael Henderson of VAI studies Parkinson’s disease and Lewy Body Dementia together

Scientists at the Van Andel Institute looked at complex molecular changes that occur in cells with Lewy bodies - clumps of misshapen proteins that are believed to disrupt healthy cellular function and contribute to cell death in neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Lewy Body Dementia.

New technology allowed scientists to capture neurons that had Lewy bodies and nearby neurons that didn’t and compare them.

“We’re really interested in what’s the difference between those neurons and then when they have the Lewy bodies, what’s the cell trying to do?”

Dr. Michael Henderson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurodegenerative Science at VAI. He says Parkinson’s disease is typically diagnosed as a movement disorder while Lewy Body Dementia is characterized as a cognitive disorder, yet the two share a spectrum and are studied together.

“If you look at the brain actually there’s a lot of similarities in how the pathologies develop and in which brain regions, and patients with Parkinson’s disease actually go on to develop dementia -up to 80% of patients do.”

He says people with Parkinson’s have treatments that can work well to alleviate some of the symptoms. The current studies are important for developing new therapies.

“This is a progressive disease and there’s nothing to stop the progress of that and so that’s what our lab is interested in – finding potential ways to intervene in the progression of disease.”

VAI has a public forum scheduled in September. Parkinson’s patients and care partners can share insights with researchers. Details on their website: www.vai.org

Related Content