In a study that sheds new light on the causes of Parkinson's disease, researchers report that brain cells in Parkinson's patients abandon their energy-producing machinery, the mitochondria. A shutdown in fuel can have devastating effects on brain cells, which consume roughly 20 percent of the body's energy despite making up only 2 percent of body weight.
The findings indicate that boosting the mitochondria with FDA approved drugs early on may prevent or delay the onset of Parkinson's. The study will be published in the one-year anniversary issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine, on Wednesday October 6 2010. Science Translational Medicine is published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.
Affecting roughly 5 million people worldwide, Parkinson's disease is a relentless condition that starts killing dopamine neurons in the brain many years before the onset of hallmark symptoms like tremors, muscle rigidity and slow movements. Thus, much-needed drugs to slow or halt the disease would have the greatest benefit for patients if they are given early on, before too many dopamine neurons die.
Clemens Scherzer from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, along with an international team of researchers, now show that a root cause of Parkinson's disease may lie in 10 gene sets related to energy production that spur neurons in the brain to "divorce" their mitochondria and related energy-producing pathways.
These gene sets are controlled by a master regulatorthe PGC-1alpha gene. Moreover, abnormal expression of these genes likely occurs during the initial stages of Parkinson's disease, long before the onset of symptoms, the study shows. Targeting PGC-1alpha may thus be an effective way to slow down or halt the earliest stages of Parkinson's, staving off permanent damage and neuronal loss.
"The most exciting result from our study for me is the discovery of PGC-1alpha<
|Contact: Natasha Pinol|
American Association for the Advancement of Science