"Those two things are obviously related," says Pavan Auluck, first co-author and a visiting scientist in the Lindquist lab. "We're trying to figure out what the connections are between them. And there are a number of ways they can be related."
Lindquist agrees: "There are very deeply rooted processes that connect protein trafficking and mitochondrial viability," says Lindquist, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and a professor of biology at MIT. "That emphasizes that the underlying problem caused by alpha-synuclein is a general cellular defect that is part of the machinery of all eukaryotic cells. The specific problems in Parkinson's are due to the neurons being particularly sensitive to that process going awry."
As for the future of the specific compounds identified in this study, Daniel Tardiff, a Lindquist postdoctoral researcher, remains optimistic.
"Theoretically if a compound is having a beneficial effect on yeast cells, and in a worm, and in primary neurons, then possibly through years and years of work, it might actually be a potential therapeutic avenue or drug," says Tardiff. "Though we started in yeast, one of those compounds could actually have some potential for human health in Parkinson's disease. That's always a lofty goal."
|Contact: Nicole Giese|
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research