Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Gaining Insight Into a Gene's Protective Role in Parkinson’s

08.02.2012
Treatments for Parkinson’s disease, estimated to affect 1 million Americans, have yet to prove effective in slowing the progression of the debilitating disease.

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
Further information:
http://www.ua.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht One step closer to reality
20.04.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie

nachricht The dark side of cichlid fish: from cannibal to caregiver
20.04.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Magnetic nano-imaging on a table top

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Start of work for the world's largest electric truck

20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research

Atoms may hum a tune from grand cosmic symphony

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>