Is Parkinson’s an Autoimmune Disease? A New Research is Exploring this Possibility

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by two hallmarks: loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra (SN) of the brain responsible for the motor features and excess accumulation of aggregated α-synuclein (α-syn) protein.

There are approximately 1 million people in North America affected by this debilitating disease, and the etiology of PD is largely unknown. Recent findings have identified PD-associated autoimmune features including roles for T cells. 

In a recently published study, researchers at La Jolla Institute for Immunology in La Jolla, CA, have found a distinct genetic signature in the immune cells of people with PD. The results were published in the journal npj Parkinson’s Disease.

The same group previously reported in 2020 a research that suggested that the immune system begins to target alpha-synuclein early in the course of Parkinson’s disease.

Study Development and Results 

The researchers compared the activity of genes in memory T cells from people with PD and those from healthy controls matched for their age. 

They found that patients whose T cells reacted to alpha-synuclein, a gene called LRRK2, which is 1 of the 2 genes commonly associated with familial PD, is also active in their T cells.

They also found increased expression of other genes in neurons, such as LAMP3, and aquaporin. 

With this knowledge it might be possible to delay or halt the progression of the disease by targeting these genes in early stages of PD, before motor symptoms develop. 


Dhanwani, R., Lima-Junior, J.R., Sethi, A. et al. Transcriptional analysis of peripheral memory T cells reveals Parkinson’s disease-specific gene signatures. npj Parkinsons Dis. 8, 30 (2022).

James Kingsland. (2022, Mar 29). Is Parkinson’s an autoimmune disease? Study explores role of T cells. Medical News Today. Retrieved from:

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