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UCLA Find Yields Further Insight into Causes of Parkinson’s Diseas

neurons.

"Since a lot of those pathways regulating cell survival and death are conserved by evolution all the way from flies to humans," said Jackson, "if we find those genes in the fly, they may represent new therapeutic targets for PD in humans."

The researchers examined the results not only from a genetic standpoint but from a behavioral standpoint as well. To measure the progression of Parkinson's disease in the fly, they designed a small series of rotating glass cylinders that they christened a "fly rotarod." A healthy fly placed inside the hollow cylinder would simply cling to the wall during the slow 360-degree loop. But flies with Parkinson's disease would fall, depending on the progression of their disease. The researchers used infrared beams to measure when they fell.

The researchers also plan to use their fly model to test a library of some 5,000 drug compounds approved by the Food and Drug Administration to see which ones might stop disease progression. If they find one that works, such a compound, which could serve as a kind of skeleton for other therapeutic drugs, could then be tested in mouse models and eventually in humans.

While non-scientists may have trouble understanding how a simple fruit fly can have implications for humans, Jackson said that, thanks to the biological similarities between species, "the point of what we do is that if we find things, then ultimately, we can examine them in humans."

Besides Jackson, other UCLA investigators included Tzu-Kang Sang, Hui-Yun Chang, George M. Lawless, Anuradha Ratnaparkhi, Lisa Mee, Larry C. Ackerson, Nigel T. Maidment and study co-author David E. Krantz.

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