Could boosting the brain’s batteries slow down Parkinson’s?
We know in Parkinson’s, mitochondria, the "batteries" that power our cells, don’t always work properly. Researchers believe that finding proteins that can fix the recycling process of these dysfunctioning batteries, could protect dopamine-producing cells from energy failure and death.
In an exciting new project, a team of researchers are investigating how improving this process could pave the way to a new treatment that could slow down or even stop Parkinson’s.
What are the brain’s batteries?
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 move around our cells, delivering energy from the food we eat and oxygen we breathe. They’re essential for dopamine-producing cells to work.
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.
Watch the video below to find out more.