Scientists at the Medical College of Georgia have made a new discovery which may further our understanding of how diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease develop. This latest research has indicated that two proteins which help cells to deal with unwanted substances need to work in conjunction in order to do their job. If this connection doesn’t happen, it appears to contribute in some way to the development of Parkinson’s.
Our cells contains lysosomes, an area which collects proteins which are not functioning properly either due to damage or age. Inside these lysosomes are other proteins known as proteases which help to breakdown the damaged proteins while salvaging amino acids. It’s all part of our normal cell processes, and enables our cells to survive and regenerate.
The author of this latest study, Dr. Wen-Cheng Xiong, a developmental neurobiologist at the Georgia Regents University, has published the findings in The Journal of Neuroscience, explaining that the key to the whole process are two specific proteins which are essential for retrieving membrane proteins which are vital for cell function. While levels of these proteins naturally fall with age, mutations have been found in patients with a rare form of Parkinson’s. Furthermore, scientists have been able to show that these proteins work in conjunction, and that if one protein is not functioning correctly, then the other is unable to do its job.
During their study, the scientists used engineered mice who were missing one of the vital proteins. These mice were seen to exhibit Parkinson’s-like symptoms, including impaired motor control. Upon further examination they found that their lysosomes weren’t functioning properly. Along with further tests to see what would happen when they increased the protein, the scientists concluded that without these proteins the dopamine neurons start producing even more waste matter rather than recycling and eliminating it, meaning that they are no longer able to retrieve and recycle the amino acids that are so vital for cell function. When this happens, dopamine neurons are lost rather than preserved, a fact which has been confirmed as brain scans have showed empty spaces in place of neurons in patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.
This current research will prove helpful to inform further studies, as by identifying why this is happening, it’s now possible to target research into how to stop the process.
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