However, University of Alabama researchers have identified how a specific gene protects dopamine-producing neurons from dying in both animal models and in cultures of human neurons, according to a scientific article publishing in the Feb. 8 edition of The Journal of Neuroscience.
This increased understanding of the gene’s neuro-protective capability is, the researchers said, another step toward the potential development of a new drug treatment.
“This gene represents a previously unexplored protein therapeutic target for Parkinson’s disease,” said Dr. Guy Caldwell, professor of biological sciences at The University of Alabama and a co-author of the article.
The gene, known as VPS41, was one of five genes that UA scientists showed in 2008 had protective capabilities against a hallmark trait of Parkinson’s, the age-associated loss of dopamine neurons. The latest announcement reflects the better understanding since gained of how the gene functions.
The latest UA research was primarily funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. The scientific journal, published by the Society of Neuroscience, is the largest weekly journal dedicated to neuroscience discovery.
The researchers also found that specific, and rare changes in human DNA – changes sometimes also evident in non-Parkinson’s patients – appear to impact how VPS41 functions.
“Mutations like these may represent previously unreported susceptibility factors for Parkinson’s disease,” Caldwell said.
The article’s lead author is Dr. Adam Harrington, who earned his doctoral degree from UA in December 2011 while working in the Caldwell Lab. The additional UA co-author is Dr. Kim Caldwell, associate professor of biological sciences. Dr. Talene Yacoubian, a physician, and Sunny Slone, both of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, are also co-authors.
The researchers used both specific strains of tiny nematode worms as animal models for the work along with the human cultures.
The genetically engineered worms contain a human protein, alpha-synuclein within their cells. Scientists have learned that people with too many copies of the code for alpha-synuclein within their DNA will contract Parkinson’s.
Extra copies of alpha-synuclein can lead to repeated protein misfolding and the death of the dopamine-producing neurons in the brain. In Parkinson’s patients, the death of these neurons leads to rigid and tremoring limbs, difficulty in movement and impaired reflexes.
“The main advance here is that we have mechanistically defined how VPS41 appears to convey its protective capacity to neurons – not only in worms, but also in human dopamine-producing neuron cultures,” said Caldwell.
The next phase in this research involves translating these findings into potential therapies.
“The obstacles of finding any disease-modifying therapy are diminished once protective mechanisms, like this one, become revealed and better defined,” said Caldwell.
Chris Bryant | Newswise Science News
New photocatalyst speeds up the conversion of carbon dioxide into chemical resources
29.05.2017 | DGIST (Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology)
Copper hydroxide nanoparticles provide protection against toxic oxygen radicals in cigarette smoke
29.05.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.
The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
29.05.2017 | Earth Sciences
29.05.2017 | Life Sciences
29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy