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 Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH

nachricht Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>