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Communication breakdown: what happens to nerve cells in Parkinson's disease
Date:2/9/2010

A new study from The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital The Neuro - at McGill University is the first to discover a molecular link between Parkinson's disease and defects in the ability of nerve cells to communicate. The study, published in the prestigious journal Molecular Cell and selected as Editor's Choice in the prominent journal Science, provides new insight into the mechanisms underlying Parkinson's disease, and could lead to innovative new therapeutic strategies.

Parkinson's, a neurodegenerative disease affecting approximately 100,000 Canadians and over 4 million people worldwide, a number expected to double by the year 2030, causes muscle stiffness and tremor and prevents people from controlling their movements in a normal manner. The disease is characterized by the degeneration and death of dopamine neurons in specific regions of the brain, causing neurological impairment. It is not known exactly what causes the death of these neurons.

Mutations in the parkin gene are responsible for a common inherited form of Parkinson's disease. By studying defects in the genes and proteins of patients with inherited forms of Parkinson's, principal author of the study at The Neuro, Dr. Edward Fon, is learning about the molecular mechanisms involved in the death of dopamine neurons.

The function of the parkin protein is not yet well defined. Scientists learn about the function of a protein by studying normal and mutated forms as well as investigating what the protein binds to. These kind of studies provide clues as to what processes the protein may be involved in. It is known that parkin is involved in the degradation of other proteins. However, how defects in this function are linked to Parkinson's remains unclear. To further understand how a mutated parkin protein causes Parkinson's, Dr. Fon and his colleagues looked at where mutations are found on the gene and focused on understanding the function of region th
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Contact: Anita Kar
anita.kar@mcgill.ca
514-398-3376
McGill University
Source:Eurekalert

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