New research by scientists at the University of Leicester has provided a breakthrough in understanding the origins of Parkinson’s disease which could eventually lead to a cure.
The scientists have discovered that the area of a cell responsible for correctly assembling key proteins could play much more significant role in the disease than previously thought.
It had originally been though that Parkinson’s occurs when the power source for cells malfunctions.
It now turns out that the majority of the problem lies in another part of the cell called the endoplasmic reticulum (ER).
The ER’s job is to fold vital proteins that are used by the cell, if it malfunctions the cell will halt production of these proteins and ultimately die.
By genetically modifying fruit flies to develop Parkinson’s, the scientists were actually able to correct this malfunction.
Dr Miguel Martins, lead researcher on the project, said: “By identifying and preventing ER stress in a model of the disease it was possible for us to prevent neurodegeneration.”
“Lab experiments, like this, allow us to see what effect ER stress has on Parkinson’s disease.”
Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition that affects one in every 500 people in the UK.
Traditionally people over the age of 50 get Parkinson’s but there are cases where younger people get it too.
Claire Bale, Head of Research Communications and Engagement at Parkinson’s UK commented on the new study and is hopeful of what it could mean in the future.
“Parkinson’s occurs due to a loss of dopamine-producing nerve cells in the brain. The symptoms of Parkinson’s emerge when around 70% of cells have been lost.” she said.
“This research provides new insights into the significance of the role of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and the potential order of events that happens when a brain cell starts to malfunction and die.
“Identifying a way to prevent losing precious dopamine-producing cells in a fly model could translate to new and better treatments for Parkinson’s.
“This would have the potential to slow or stop the condition in its tracks, which no treatment for Parkinson’s can currently do.”