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Researchers Discover

Molecule That May Lessen Severity of Parkinson’s Disease

Discovery could lead to pharmaceuticals that regulate the disorder

In normally functioning brain cells, mitochondria, or the “powerhouses” of cells, generate the energy needed to keep cells alive. When mitochondria become damaged and are no longer capable of making energy, they are sent to a portion of the cell called a lysosome to be repaired; however, in the brains of Parkinson’s disease patients, mitochondria fail to move to lysosomes, causing accumulations of damaged mitochondria that kill brain cells. Now, a University of Missouri researcher has found a molecule that could aid mitochondrial recycling and keep brain cells alive. The molecule could be key to developing drugs that will keep brain cells healthy in individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

“Mitochondria eventually become damaged and no longer function properly, so the cell has a mechanism to recycle them, keeping them strong,” said Mark Hannink, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and an investigator at the Bond Life Sciences Center at MU. “In early onset Parkinson’s, mutated proteins ‘forget’ to recycle mitochondria, resulting in a build-up of toxic waste and early onset of the disease. In our study, we found a peptide, or molecule, responsible for an alternative pathway that bypasses the mutant Parkinson’s proteins and allows mitochondrial recycling. We feel that this peptide could prove useful in fighting diseases in the brain.”

Read the rest at Health Canal >>