Research sheds new light on how genes cause Parkinson's
29 July 2010
New research published in the journal
Nature reveals for the first time how a subtle variation in the
LRRK2 gene causes the nerve cells affected in Parkinson's to stop
working and die.
This discovery sheds new light on the fundamental causes of Parkinson's and will bring us closer to a cure.
Dr Kieran Breen, Director of Research
Changes in LRRK2 were first identified by Parkinson's UK-funded
researchers in 2004.
LRRK2 is the most common genetic factor linked with Parkinson's
but until now scientists didn’t know how changes in the gene caused
How changes in LRRK2 lead to nerve cell death
Researchers at Stanford University in the US used fruitflies to
study how an altered version of LRRK2 behaves inside the nerve
cells lost in the Parkinson’s brain.
They found that altered LRRK2 interferes with tiny molecules
MicroRNAs play a vital role – fine-tuning the levels of
different proteins inside cells. Problems with microRNAs seem to be
involved in cancer, but this is the first time they have been
identified as a key player in Parkinson's.
In this study the researchers found that LRRK2 disrupts 2 key
microRNAs that control the production of proteins. LRRK2 interferes
with the microRNAs, which means that cells overproduce certain
proteins that ultimately triggers the nerve cells to die.
Crucially, the researchers also found that by boosting the
levels of these 2 microRNAs they could cancel out the effects of
LRRK2 and prevent nerve cell death.
Exciting potential for developing new treatments
Dr Kieran Breen, our Director of Research and Development,
commented today in the
"This breakthrough represents a significant step forward towards
developing treatments that will actually stop the process of nerve
cell death - something no current treatments can do.
"Working out how subtle genetic changes affect nerve cells is
one of the biggest challenges for Parkinson's. This discovery sheds
new light on the fundamental causes of Parkinson’s and will bring
us closer to a cure."
Find out more about our research
We are currently funding 37 research projects worth over £5million
exploring the causes of Parkinson's - including important
studies exploring the role of LRRK2 and micro-RNAs in the
development of Parkinson's.
We need to know how and why certain nerve cells in the brain in
Parkinson's die in order to find a cure.