Molecules that contain both lipids (fatty acids) and sugars that are part of the cellular structure of nearly all bacteria. Lipopolysaccharides (LPSs) are present in the healthy body and in health appear to have no harmful effects. Their levels increase when there is any inflammatory response, contributing to increased levels of free radicals (unstable molecules that scientists believe play a significant role in many disease processes).
The DOPAMINERGIC NEURONS of the SUBSTANTIA NIGRA and striatum appear particularly susceptible to lipopolysaccharide damage.
Researchers have been able to create the conditions of Parkinson’s disease in laboratory animals by injecting lipopolysaccharides into these areas of the brain (often referred to as the LPS-induced animal model). Dopaminergic neurons quickly die in response, causing disruptions to motor function that are identical to the symptoms of Parkinson’s. They hope that such studies will increase understanding of environmental influences on the development of Parkinson’s disease and help to determine to what extent, if any, reducing exposure to lipopolysaccharides lowers the risk of development of Parkinson’s.