A recent news report on LRRK2 got our attention. The headline, Blocking LRRK2 activity is not a simple answer to Parkinson's disease, made sense. (Is anything ever simple when it comes to Parkinson’s?) But the reporter’s topline summary raised eyebrows:
New research… demonstrates that loss of function of LRRK2 leads to changes in motor coordination and causes anxiety-like behaviors and kidney degeneration… without affecting dopamine-mediated brain activity.
In other words: Yikes. We asked Marco Baptista, PhD, an MJFF LRRK2 research lead, to do some sleuthing. After reading the scientific paper, Marco reports back:
“The media story likely overstated conclusions around anxiety. The scientists wrote that they ‘interpret these results cautiously…’ and others have observed that ‘the [anxiety] measures obtained are variable.’ ” As always, more research is needed — future studies could focus on anti-anxiety drugs or neurochemistry (specifically serotonin in the amygdala, a brain region involved in processing anxiety and fear).
So what about kidney degeneration? It is cropping up consistently in pre-clinical LRRK2 testing. But Marco adds critical context:
“Every compound is toxic if you take enough of it (including age-old, widely used drugs such as aspirin and Tylenol). The point of pre-clinical toxicity testing is to determine at what dose your compound is toxic, and in what way. In fact, tests that do not reveal any toxicity are considered failures and those compounds don’t move forward. Learning that LRRK2 at some level impacts kidney function is an important flag, but this may be a risk that can be mitigated as part of LRRK2’s continuing development as a treatment for Parkinson’s.”
Bottom line? Remember to take science news reporting with a healthy pinch of salt.