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In Parkinson's disease, brain cells abandon mitochondria, researchers report
Date:10/7/2010

/i> as a new therapeutic target for early intervention in Parkinson's disease. PGC-1alpha is a master switch that activates hundreds of mitochondrial genes, including many of those needed to maintain and repair the power plants in the mitochondria," Scherzer said.

FDA-approved medications that activate that PGC-1alpha are already available for widespread diseases like diabetes. These medications may jumpstart the development of new Parkinson's drugs; instead of having to start from scratch, pharmaceutical companies may be able to dust off their drug libraries and find look-alike drugs capable of targeting PGC-1alpha in the brain.

"As we wrap up our first year of publishing the journal, the new study from Zheng et al. exemplifies the goal of Science Translational Medicine, applying knowledge and technology from different fields-such as neuroscience, genomics and bioinformatics-to achieve new discoveries," said Editor Katrina Kelner.

Previous studies have linked defects in mitochondrial activity to Parkinson's disease, but they generally have not provided such a comprehensive, specific set of genes as Scherzer and colleagues now report. The researchers analyzed a part of the brain called the substantia nigra in 185 tissue samples from deceased Parkinson's patients.

The substantia nigra (Latin for "black substance") contains dopamine-producing neurons. Scherzer and colleagues used a laser beam to precisely cut out the dopamine neurons that are abnormal in Parkinson's. Next, the team looked at gene activity in these dopamine neurons and identified gene setsgroups of genes involved in one biological processthat are associated with Parkinson's disease. At the end of this tour-de-force analysis, 10 gene sets linked to Parkinson's emerged. All of these gene sets had a common threadthe master regulator gene PGC-1alpha.

The 10 gene sets encode proteins responsible for cellular processes
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Contact: Natasha Pinol
npinol@aaas.org
202-326-7088
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Source:Eurekalert

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