New research from Leicester University suggested that Parkinson’s disease may be caused differently from that which was considered the conventional wisdom.
And as a result scientists believe that they may also have discovered a possible new way of treating the severely debilitating condition.
Charity Parkinson’s UK believe that the work conducted by scientists in Leicester could “slow or stop the condition in its tracks”.
Previously, it was believed that Parkinson’s was caused by the malfunctioning of mitochondria.
But Leicester University researchers found most of the problem related to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), and have now reported on the matter in the journal Cell Death and Disease.
Scientists utilised fruit flies that had been genetically modified in order to investigate Parkinson’s, with researchers able to at least partially correct the problem so that the number of brain cells in fruit flies significantly increased.
This resulted in the muscles of the insects remaining healthy following the treatment.
Commenting on the study, one of the researchers, Dr Miguel Martins, indicated his belief that the Parkinson’s research would challenge the conventional wisdom on the subject.
“This research challenges the current held belief the Parkinson’s disease is a result of malfunctioning mitochondria. By identifying and preventing ER stress in a model of the disease it was possible for us to prevent neurodegeneration. While the finding so far only applies to fruit flies, we believe further research could find that a similar intervention in people might help treat certain forms of Parkinson’s.”
Parkinson’s affects about 127,000 people in the UK, and it is hoped that this new breakthrough in understanding the condition could lead to a serious improvement in the standard of living for sufferers.
Perhaps the most famous individual affected by Parkinson’s was the recently deceased Muhammad Ali, who contracted the condition back in 1984.
Researchers now believe that ER’s role is to fold vital proteins used by a cell, and if it misfolds the proteins these an be dangerous, and so the cell will halt production.
The researchers believe the misfolding is caused when too much of the ER is attached to the mitochondria by mitofusin.
Leicester University released a statement on the matter, confirming that researchers have made a major scientific breakthrough.
“The scientists were able to prevent neurodegeneration in mutant flies not only by reducing mitofusin, but also with chemicals that block the effects of ER stress.”
Claire Bale, head of research communications at Parkinson’s UK, welcomed the research, and was hopeful that there could be major breakthroughs in the treatment of Parkinson as a result of this innovative study.
“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.”