The MAPK pathway is incredibly important in our brain. Its functions range from cell growth and development to inflammation and cell death. This pathway is incredibly large and is responsible for many different things. Diseases like Parkinson’s and ALS have been linked to a disruption in the MAPK pathway leading to oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress occurs when oxidant by products from certain processes reach levels that are too high for cells to deal with. The stress placed on the cells can be relieved but if it is not it affects how well they are able to function and can even lead to the death of the cell. It is believed that those with neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and ALS are experiencing motor neuron deterioration due to oxidative stress.
Targeting the MAPK pathway to fix this is problematic. Because MAPK is important to so many other processes it is almost impossible to alter it in a way that would prevent Parkinson’s or ALS and not cause some other problem in a different part of the pathway. The use of stem cell therapy has been used in an attempt to replace the lost motor neurons. This treatment appeared to be working for a time as the stem cells developed into new motor neurons but shortly afterwards the oxidative stress caused those neurons to degenerate just as the first ones did.
Neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and ALS are crippling to those who have it as well as those around them. Research is trying to find ways to make drugs that will target extremely specific receptors in the hope that being able to do so will make treating diseases like this possible when it has been impossible in the past. The number of important function performed by the MAPK pathway is too large to try and alter it without very target specific drugs.
The following is a link to a diagram of the MAPK pathway: http://www.avivasysbio.com/research-areas/mapk-signaling-pathway