Scientists who developed the first yeast model of Parkinsons disease (PD) have been able to describe the mechanisms of an important genes role in the disease. Tiago Fleming Outeiro, Ph.D., and Susan Lindquist, Ph.D., of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, studied the genes actions under normal conditions and under abnormal conditions to learn how and when the genes product, alpha-synuclein, becomes harmful to surrounding cells. The scientists created a yeast model that expresses the alpha-synuclein gene, which has been implicated in Parkinsons disease (PD). Yeast models are often used in the study of genetic diseases because they offer researchers a simple system that allows them to clarify how genes work.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health, funded the study, which appears in the December 5, 2003, issue of Science.
The alpha-synuclein protein, which is found broadly in the brain, has been implicated in several neurodegenerative disorders. Sometimes a mutation or a misfolding of the protein causes the problems; other times there are too many copies of the normal gene. A study earlier this year reported that patients with a rare familial form of PD had too many normal copies of the alpha-synuclein gene, which resulted in a buildup of protein inside brain cells, causing the symptoms of PD.
Margo Warren | EurekAlert!
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