, Volume 5, Issue 6, pp 411-417

Parkinson's disease and inflammatory changes

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In 1988 McGeer and colleagues (Neurology 38, 1285–91) observed an activation of the microglia in substantia nigrapars compacta (SNpc) and striatum of brains from patients with Parkinson's disease. In the years that followed several studies performed in the cerebrospinal fluid and duringpost-mortem analysis in parkinsonian patients revealed increased levels of cytokines, suggesting the activation of a proinflammatory response. Moreover, Langston and his group described the presence of active microglia in the SNpc of three patients who had been exposed to MPTP several years before death. These results suggested that the inflammatory response may increase negative feed-back into the damaged area of the cerebral parenchyma, inducing an imbalance that could perpetuate and/or accelerate neuronal death over a period of years. Similar results have been obtained in parkinsonian monkeys, rats and mice. For these reasons, several groups have treated parkinsonian animals with different anti-inflammatory drugs and obtained promising results. However, it is still not known whether inflammatory changes are responsible for active nerve cell death or whether they play a protective role in neurodegeneration. These changes are putatively related to neuronal loss and suggest that anti-inflammatory treatment for parkinsonian patients could have beneficial effects in the progression of the disease by slowing down the process of neuronal loss.