Finding that may result in new treatments for the debilitating disorder
A team of UCLA researchers has identified a new gene involved in Parkinson's disease, a finding that may one day provide a target for a new drug to prevent and potentially even cure the debilitating neurological disorder.
This is Dr. Ming Guo.
Parkinson's disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer's disease, and there is no cure for the progressive and devastating illness. About 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease each year. It is estimated that as many as 1 million Americans live with Parkinson's disease, which is more than the number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig's disease combined.
In Parkinson's disease, multiple neurons in the brain gradually break down or die. This leads to the movement impairments, such as tremor, rigidity, slowness in movement and difficulty walking, as well as depression, anxiety, sleeping difficulties and dementia, said Dr. Ming Guo, the study team leader, associate professor of neurology and pharmacology and a practicing neurologist at UCLA.
A handful of genes have been identified in inherited cases of Parkinson's disease. Guo's team was one of two groups worldwide that first reported in 2006 in the journal Nature that two of these genes, PTEN-induced putative kinase 1 (PINK1) and PARKIN, act together to maintain the health of mitochondria – the power house of the cell that is important in maintaining brain health. Mutations in these genes lead to early-onset Parkinson's disease.
Guo's team has further shown that when PINK1 and PARKIN are operating correctly, they help maintain the regular shape of healthy mitochondria and promote elimination of damaged mitochondria. Accumulation of unhealthy or damaged mitochondria in neurons and muscles ultimately results in Parkinson's disease.
In this study, the team found that the new gene, called MUL1 (also known as MULAN and MAPL), plays an important role in mediating the pathology of the PINK1 and PARKIN. The study, performed in fruit flies and mice, showed that providing an extra amount of MUL1 ameliorates the mitochondrial damage due to mutated PINK/PARKIN, while inhibiting MUL1 in mutant PINK1/PARKIN exacerbates the damage to the mitochondria. In addition, Guo and her collaborators found that removing MUL1 from mouse neurons of the PARKIN disease model results in unhealthy mitochondria and degeneration of the neurons.
The five-year study appears June 4, 2014, in eLife, a new, open access scientific journal for groundbreaking biomedical and life research sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (United States), the Wellcome Trust (United Kingdom) and Max Plank Institutes (Germany).
"We are very excited about this finding," Guo said. "There are several implications to this work, including that MUL1 appears to be a very promising drug target and that it may constitute a new pathway regulating the quality of mitochondria."
Guo characterized the work as "a major advancement in Parkinson's disease research."
"We show that MUL1 dosage is key and optimizing its function is crucial for brain health and to ward off Parkinson's disease," she said. "Our work proves that mitochondrial health is of central importance to keep us from suffering from neurodegeneration. Further, finding a drug that can enhance MUL1 function would be of great benefit to patients with Parkinson's disease."
Going forward, Guo and her team will test these results in more complex organisms, hoping to uncover additional functions and mechanisms of MUL1. Additionally, the team will perform small molecule screens to help identify potential compounds that specifically target MUL1. Further, they will examine if mutations in MUL1 exist in some patients with inherited forms of Parkinson's.
The study, collaboration between the Guo lab and Dr. Zuhang Sheng from the National Institute of Health, was supported by the National Institute of Aging (R01, K02), National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (EUREKA award), Ellison Medical Foundation Senior Scholar Award, McKnight Neuroscience Foundation, the Klingenstein Foundation, the American Parkinson's Disease Association and the Glenn Family Foundation.
The UCLA Department of Neurology encompasses more than 26 disease-related research programs. This includes all of the major categories of neurological diseases and methods, encompassing neurogenetics and neuroimaging, as well as health services research. The 140 faculty members of the department are distinguished scientists and clinicians who have been ranked No. 1 in National Institutes of Health funding since 2002. The department is dedicated to understanding the human nervous system and improving the lives of people with neurological diseases, focusing on three key areas: patient/clinical care, research and education.
Kim Irwin | Eurek Alert!
A novel synthetic antibody enables conditional “protein knockdown” in vertebrates
20.08.2018 | Technische Universität Dresden
Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves
17.08.2018 | Leibniz Universität Hannover
There are currently great hopes for solid-state batteries. They contain no liquid parts that could leak or catch fire. For this reason, they do not require cooling and are considered to be much safer, more reliable, and longer lasting than traditional lithium-ion batteries. Jülich scientists have now introduced a new concept that allows currents up to ten times greater during charging and discharging than previously described in the literature. The improvement was achieved by a “clever” choice of materials with a focus on consistently good compatibility. All components were made from phosphate compounds, which are well matched both chemically and mechanically.
The low current is considered one of the biggest hurdles in the development of solid-state batteries. It is the reason why the batteries take a relatively long...
New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference
Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
17.08.2018 | Event News
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
20.08.2018 | Life Sciences
20.08.2018 | Information Technology
20.08.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering