New research at the University of Sheffield may hold clue to early-onset Parkinson´s

The Parkinson ´s Disease Society (PDS) has announced funding of nearly 240,000 towards research at the University of Sheffield which will look into the possibility of slowing down the onset of Parkinson's disease.

Dr Oliver Bandmann and his team at the University will focus on the gene PARK 2, as this is associated with an inherited form of Parkinson´s disease that strikes at an early age, but can also result in Parkinson´s disease presenting later in life.

It is estimated that 1 in 20 people with Parkinson´s are under the age of 40 when diagnosed. Dr Bandmann´s team will use tropical zebrafish, which are around 3cm long for the study, because their PARK 2 gene is very similar to that found in humans.

Specific changes or mutations in both copies of the PARK 2 gene (which produces the protein parkin), are the most common identifiable cause for the inherited form of early-onset Parkinson´s, but we don´t know yet how these lead to the death of the dopamine-producing nerve cells which cause Parkinson´s. There is evidence to suggest that parkin may interfere with the working of mitochondria, which produce sufficient energy to power the cells to work normally. Specific changes or mutations in both copies of the PARK 2 gene (which produces the protein parkin), are the most common identifiable cause for the inherited form of early-onset Parkinson´s, but we don´t know yet how these lead to the death of the dopamine-producing nerve cells which cause Parkinson´s. There is evidence to suggest that parkin may interfere with the working of mitochondria, which produce sufficient energy to power the cells to work normally.

Dr Oliver Bandmann, from the Medical School at the University of Sheffield, explains: "By looking at what happens when the PARK 2 gene is removed from the zebrafish, we hope to understand how defects in the human PARK 2 gene result in Parkinson´s. Ultimately, it may be possible to use zebrafish that lack the PARK 2 gene to screen for new drugs that could slow down early-onset Parkinson´s.

Dr Kieran Breen, Director of Research and Development at the Parkinson´s Disease Society adds: "We are delighted to fund this kind of innovative genetic research, looking at the possible causes of Parkinson´s, so that new drug treatments can be developed. Dr Bandmann´s research will increase our understanding of the causes of the condition".


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