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How yeast is helping us to understand Parkinson's Disease
Date:2/27/2009

Teams of scientists from Australia and the United States have used yeast and mammalian cells to discover a connection between genetic and environmental causes of Parkinson's disease.

Yeasts are single cell organisms, used widely in biological research because their structure resembles that of cells found in animals and humans. Yeasts share many genes, or their functional equivalents, with humans and offer the ability to screen or test thousands of genes and analysing their effects.

Two genes (alpha-synuclein and PARK9) had separately been associated with forms of Parkinson's disease, while manganese poisoning can cause PD-like symptoms in miners and welders exposed to high manganese levels. Findings connecting alpha-synuclein, PARK9 and sensitivity to manganese, made possible by yeast research, have been published online in the February issue of the prestigious international journal, Nature Genetics.

"This is the first time that we've been able to connect three pieces of the Parkinson's disease jigsaw puzzle and it tells us we're on the right track to understanding what goes wrong in this disease" said Dr Antony Cooper from Sydney's Garvan Institute of Medical Research and head of the project group in Australia.

Parkinson's disease involves the degeneration of neurons that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. Autopsies show an abundance of the small protein alpha-synuclein in affected regions of the brain, so scientists have known for some time that over-expression of the protein is toxic.

When a European group discovered PARK9's involvement in an inherited form of Parkinson's disease they examined some of the surviving neurons from patients who had 'sporadic' Parkinson's, as opposed to inherited forms of the disease, and found they contained ten times the levels of PARK9 when compared with similar parts of the brain in patients without the disease.

"Its possible that the surviving neurons rem
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Contact: Alison Heather
a.heather@garvan.org.au
61-043-407-1326
Research Australia
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3

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