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

ained functional, unlike the degenerated neurons surrounding them, because high levels of PARK9 protected them in some way," said Cooper.

"Little was known of PARK9's function but as yeast contains an equivalent gene, we were able to analyse its function."

"We found that high levels of the PARK9 in a cell diminish the toxic effects of alpha-synuclein. We also found that it appears to be a manganese pump, capable in theory of removing excess levels of the metal from cells."

"We need to know what is happening at the critical early stages of the disease, so that we can stop it, but we only get to examine human brains after death, when the damage has been done. Using yeast allows us to examine the early damaging stages."

A key, and perplexing, question for researchers in the field has been whether or not there is a single cause, or related group of genetic determinants, that result in dopaminergic neuron loss, or 'Parkinson's disease'.

"We would love to be able to link all the genes that we know have something to do with Parkinson's disease," said Cooper. "If you discover there's a central pathway involved, it provides much better potential for finding a successful treatment"

"So far, we've linked PARK9, alpha-synuclein and manganese toxicity. These linkages are not coincidental. They're likely to be affecting a pathway and we suspect it's a central pathway. To confirm that would be very exciting indeed."

Dr Cooper has been collaborating for several years with Dr Susan Lindquist, from the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and Dr Aaron Gitler, from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, to find how alpha-synuclein can damage cells.

To confirm that their results were not specific to yeast alone, Gitler, Cooper and Lindquist collaborated with Associate Professor Guy Caldwell, from the University of Alabama, and Associate Professor Jean-Christophe Rochet from the University of P
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Contact: Alison Heather
a.heather@garvan.org.au
61-043-407-1326
Research Australia
Source:Eurekalert

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