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Parkinson gene: Nerve growth factor halts mitochondrial degeneration
Date:1/30/2014

not function properly or regenerate. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology and their colleagues from Munich and Martinsried have now discovered a hitherto unknown link that counteracts mitochondrial dysfunction in the case of a PINK1 mutation.

The PINK1 gene emerged at a very early stage in evolutionary history and exists in a similar form for example in humans, mice and flies. In the fruit fly Drosophila, a mitochondrial defect triggered by a PINK1 mutation manifests in the fraying of the muscles. Less visible, the flies' neurons also die. The scientists studied the molecular processes involved in these changes and discovered that the activation of the Ret receptor counteracts the muscle degeneration. "This is a really interesting finding which links the mitochondrial degeneration in Parkinson's disease with nerve growth factors," reports Rdiger Klein, the head of the research study. Ret is not an unknown factor for the Martinsried-based neurobiologists: "We already succeeded in demonstrating a few years ago in mice that neurons without the Ret receptor die prematurely and in greater numbers with increasing age," says Klein.

The Ret receptor is the cells' docking site for the growth factor GDNF, which is produced by the body. Various studies carried out in previous years showed that the binding of GDNF to its Ret receptor can prevent the early death of neurons in the Substantia nigra. However, clinical studies on the influence of GDNF on the progression of Parkinson's in patients did not lead to any clear improvement in their condition.

The new findings from basic research suggest that the mitochondrial metabolism is boosted or re-established through Ret/GNDF. "Based on this finding, existing therapies could be refined or tailored to specific patient groups," hopes Pontus Klein, who conducted the study within the framework of his doctoral thesis. This hope does not appear to be completely unfounded: The scientists hav
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Contact: Dr. Rüdiger Klein
rklein@neuro.mpg.de
49-898-578-3151
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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