By Lynne Adkins

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Local researchers have announced a major discovery in the study of Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Virginia Lee, director of the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research at the University of Pennsylvania, says her team has discovered how Parkinson’s disease infects the brain.

It starts, she says, when a healthy protein goes bad.

lee virginia U. of P. Researchers Make Parkinsons Disease Breakthrough

(Dr. Virginia Lee. Photo provided)

“There’s mechanism for this bad protein to go from one cell to another,” Lee (right) tells KYW Newsradio, “and by doing this it causes the neighboring cells to get sick.”

She says if scientists can find a way to stop that bad protein from infecting and killing the cells which produce dopamine, an essential chemical for physical movement, they could cure this debilitating disease.

But she admits that will take a long time and a lot more work.

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