What are mitochondria?
Did you know our brains make up just 2% of our total body weight, yet they use 20% of all our energy reserves? So out of all the organs, the brain is particularly reliant on the tiny batteries found in every cell known as mitochondria.
Mitochondria are the brain’s batteries, they move around our cells, delivering energy from the food we eat and oxygen we breathe. They’re essential for dopamine-producing cells to work. But in Parkinson’s, they don’t always work correctly.
Watch the video below to find out more.
What happens to mitochondria in Parkinson's?
We already know the loss of dopamine-producing nerve cells prevents the parts of the brain that coordinate movement from working normally, causing symptoms of Parkinson's to appear.
Just like regular batteries, mitochondria wear out and when they do, they need to be recycled and replaced with healthy mitochondria. A protein called parkin plays a key role in this process, labelling which mitochondria should be disposed of. In some people with Parkinson’s, parkin doesn’t work properly. This means the worn-out mitochondria hang around too long and damage the essential dopamine-producing cells.
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Bringing breakthroughs closer by protecting dopamine-producing cells
Professor Sylvie Urbé and Professor Michael Clague have identified a family of over 600 proteins that may be able to stand in for parkin. In this project, the team will be investigating which of these proteins could play a vital role in recycling and replacing mitochondria and boosting it into action. Protecting the precious dopamine-producing brain cells.
If this project is successful, the next stage would investigate the impact the shortlisted proteins have on brain cells from people with Parkinson’s. This stage will be carried out at the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience with Associate Professor Heather Mortiboys.
If this research can ensure dopamine-producing cells continue to function without damage, it could be groundbreaking.
It could pave the way to a new treatment that could slow or stop Parkinson’s.
Donate now and help fund this promising research project with the potential to slow down Parkinson’s.
Want to find out more?
- Explore mitochondria in more detail in this blog by Dr Lynn Duffy
- Read more about projects targeting mitochondria, including an interview with Associate Professor Mortiboys, in the latest edition of Progress.
- Delve into the other research projects Parkinson’s UK is currently supporting on this webpage.