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Novel drug discovery tool could identify promising new therapies for Parkinson's disease
Date:7/13/2009

Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have turned simple baker's yeast into a virtual army of medicinal chemists capable of rapidly searching for drugs to treat Parkinson's disease.

In a study published online today in Nature Chemical Biology, the researchers showed that they can rescue yeast cells from toxic levels of a protein implicated in Parkinson's disease by stimulating the cells to make very small proteins called cyclic peptides. Two of the cyclic peptides had a protective effect on the yeast cells and on neurons in an animal model of Parkinson's disease.

"This biological approach to compound development opens up an entirely new direction for drug discovery, not only for Parkinson's disease, but theoretically for any disease where key aspects of the pathology can be reproduced in yeast," says Margaret Sutherland, Ph.D., a program director at NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). "A key step for the future will be to identify the cellular pathways that are affected by these cyclic peptides."

The research emerged from the lab of Susan Lindquist, Ph.D., a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Dr. Lindquist is also an investigator at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)/MIT Morris K. Udall Center for Excellence in Parkinson's Research, one of 14 such centers funded by NINDS to develop treatment breakthroughs for Parkinson's disease. The study received additional funding from NIH's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and from the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the American Parkinson's Disease Association.

Parkinson's disease attacks cells in a part of the brain responsible for motor control and coordination. As those neurons degenerate, the disease leads to progressive deterioration of motor functio
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Contact: Daniel Stimson
stimsond@ninds.nih.gov
301-496-5751
NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Source:Eurekalert

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