A new study, published in the journal Cell Death and Differentiation, has identified a gene which could help to prevent or delay the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that affects the motor system. Patients with Parkinson’s often suffer with shakes, difficulty walking, and stiffness. As the disease progresses patients commonly develop dementia along with depression and anxiety.
There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s and the current treatments revolve around increasing dopamine activity. Treatments try to counteract the motor symptoms caused by low dopamine levels resulting from loss of neurons in the brain.
The study, done on flies, has shown that the gene, ATF4, is involved in regulating expression of mitochondrial genes involved in controlling mitochondrial metabolism for neuron health.
Dr Miguel Martins who lead the research explained: “When the expression of ATF4 is
reduced in flies, expression of these mitochondrial genes drops. This drop results in dramatic locomotor defects, decreased lifespan, and dysfunctional mitochondria in the brain.” These symptoms sound very similar to the symptoms in Parkinson’s disease.
Perhaps more interestingly when they increased the expression of ATF4 in fly models of Parkinson’s they showed that the symptoms were alleviated with mitochondrial function being restored and neuron loss avoided.
This potentially points to new therapeutic targets for treatments that could slow or alleviate neuron loss in Parkinson’s.