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Tobacco Virus Protects Against Parkinson’s Disease

By BiotechDaily International staff writers
Posted on 15 Apr 2013
A virus typically associated with tobacco, but also present in spinach, tomatoes, petunias, and other household plants and vegetables, may help protect people from Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers from the University of Louisville’s (UofL; KY, USA) departments of neurology and physiology in a study published on April 3, 2013, in the journal PLOS One revealed that men who smoke have antibodies to the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV). These antibodies may interact with a protein in a cell’s energy generation system and inhibit the development of Parkinson’s disease.

Significantly, according to the researchers, this is the first reporting of the presence of antibodies to TMV in humans. Ruolan Liu, MD, PhD, Radhika Vaishnav, PhD, Andrew Roberts, PhD, and Robert Friedland, MD, examined blood samples of 60 men, 20 each who were smokeless tobacco users, smokers, or non-tobacco users. The researchers found the highest levels of the antibodies to TMV in those who smoked.

“It is quite remarkable that a plant that creates so many health problems for people may harbor a virus that has a protective role for people,” remarked Dr. Friedland, professor of neurology at the University of Louisville and the senior author for the study. “We still have a significant amount of research to undertake to determine what mechanisms may be involved, the molecular pathways that are in play and much more. However, it is valuable to consider the potential implications of plant viruses to human health and disease.”

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