A discovery by scientists at Dundee University could lead to new treatments for Parkinson’s disease.
The scientists have confirmed a key cellular pathway that protects the brain from damage is disrupted in people with the disease.
Mutations in two genes, PINK1 and Parkin, are associated with early-onset forms of Parkinson’s. Both encode distinct classes of enzymes that play a role in protecting the brain against stress.
Previous research revealed when the ‘batteries’ of cells are damaged, PINK1 can sense this and act as a switch to target and activate Parkin to prevent further damage to the cell.
With scientists from across Europe, the Dundee researchers have confirmed the importance of the switch mechanism in patients and this will influence further research, including the development of drugs to switch on the PINK1 enzyme.
The team was led by professor Miratul Muqit, a consultant neurologist at the university’s MRC Protein and Ubiquitylation Unit.
He said: “In this new advance, we genetically engineered mice to confirm the role of these switches in the brain.
“There is currently great interest to directly target PINK1 and Parkin as a potential therapy against Parkinson’s and this study strongly backs the rationale of this approach.”