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 Dissolving protein traffic jam at the entrance of mitochondria
23.05.2019 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Producing tissue and organs through lithography
23.05.2019 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The geometry of an electron determined for the first time

Physicists at the University of Basel are able to show for the first time how a single electron looks in an artificial atom. A newly developed method enables them to show the probability of an electron being present in a space. This allows improved control of electron spins, which could serve as the smallest information unit in a future quantum computer. The experiments were published in Physical Review Letters and the related theory in Physical Review B.

The spin of an electron is a promising candidate for use as the smallest information unit (qubit) of a quantum computer. Controlling and switching this spin or...

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

Im Focus: A step towards probabilistic computing

Working group led by physicist Professor Ulrich Nowak at the University of Konstanz, in collaboration with a team of physicists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, demonstrates how skyrmions can be used for the computer concepts of the future

When it comes to performing a calculation destined to arrive at an exact result, humans are hopelessly inferior to the computer. In other areas, humans are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Plumbene, graphene's latest cousin, realized on the 'nano water cube'

23.05.2019 | Materials Sciences

New flatland material: Physicists obtain quasi-2D gold

23.05.2019 | Materials Sciences

New Boost for ToCoTronics

23.05.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>