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Answers to Parkinson’s disease may lie in your skin

parkinsonsClues to Parkinson’s disease—a neurological disorder that destroys brain neurons—may be hiding inside your skin cells, says a new study in Science Translational Medicine. Scientists reprogrammed skin cells from five patients with genetically inherited forms of Parkinson’s into stem cells, which then developed into the type of neurons affected by the disease. Researchers were then able to study the effect of different interventions on individuals’ neurons. They exposed the cells to mitochondrial toxins and found that, compared to the neurons of healthy people, the cells were more likely to become damaged or die.

The technology used in the study may help clarify which individuals with hereditary Parkinson’s will be most likely to respond to certain medications and identify promising treatments for people with sporadic Parkinson’s, in which the cause of the disease is unknown.