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Cell clue could help earlier diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease

Targeting poor housekeeping in cells could lead to new treatments for Parkinson’s disease, a scientist from Cambridge University believes.

Research has linked the disease to a genetic defect that stops cells clearing out defective mitochondria, tiny metabolic generators that supply energy.

Dysfunctional mitochondria are potentially very harmful.

Cells normally dispose of them through a “hazardous waste” management system called mitophagy that causes the bean-like bodies to be digested and broken down.

The study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, indicates that mitophagy might be the key to new treatment options for the disease.

Co-author Dr Heike Laman, from the Department of Pathology, said: “This research focuses the attention of the Parkinson’s disease community on the importance of the proper maintenance of mitochondria for the health of neurons.”

“We are really only at the very beginning of this work, but perhaps we can use this information to enable earlier diagnosis for Parkinson’s disease patients or design therapies aimed at supporting mitochondrial health.”

Scientists have now discovered a biological pathway that allows mutations in a gene called FBxo7 to interfere with mitophagy.

In people with Parkinson’s disease, this leads to a build-up of defective mitochondria that may result in the death of brain cells.

Dr Helene Plun-Favreau, one of the researchers from the University College London Institute of Neurology, said: “These findings suggest that treatment strategies that target mitophagy might be developed to benefit patients with Parkinson’s disease in the future.

“What makes the study so robust is the confirmation of defective mitophagy in a number of different Parkinson’s models, including cells of patients who carry a mutation in the Fbxo7 gene.”

Further coverage of this research can be found at  (Cambridge News) (Science World Report).

Posted on 12/08/2013

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