When cells in the body become unwell or injured, they release proteins that inform the body of their stricken situation. Some of these proteins combine together, forming a multi-protein complex, which activates the release of further signalling proteins. These multi-protein formations are called inflammasomes, and they are responsible for causing inflammation - which is the immune system's response to problems affecting our bodies.

Researchers from the University of Queensland in Brisbane (Australia) have reported that one particular inflammasome, known as NLRP3, appears to be highly active in the brains of people with Parkinson's. Specifically, the investigators found that the resident immune cells in the brain - called microglia cells - had particularly high levels of NLRP3.

The scientists have also identified a molecule called MCC950 which acts as a potent inhibitor of this NLRP3 inflammasome. And they found that by orally treating mice once per day with MCC950, they could prevent the loss of dopamine neurons and improve motor function in multiple models of Parkinson's. The researchers also noted a reduction in the accumulation of the Parkinson's-associated protein alpha synuclein. The researchers are now further investigating the use of this NLRP3 inhibitor with a biotech firm called Inflazome, with the ultimate goal of clinically testing it in people with Parkinson's

Read the paper here: http://stm.sciencemag.org/eaah4066

Update March 2019:

'Fox Foundation backs Inflazome Parkinson’s project' - 

Irish start-up Inflazome has won $1 million in funding from the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) to help it develop a brain imaging probe for Parkinson’s, as well as a new drug class for the disease.

The cash injection will be used to support a positron emission tomography (PET) imaging technique that will help Inflazome bring forward small molecule drugs that target NLRP3, a protein complex or ‘inflammasome’ thought to be involved in harmful inflammatory processes in Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.