Team traces genetic form of Parkinson’s disease

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Team traces genetic form of Parkinson’s disease

Korean scientists have found the cause of one of the genetic forms of Parkinson’s disease and the functions of two mutant proteins that cause the disorder. The Science Ministry said yesterday that a team of scientists led by Chung Jong-kyeong, a professor of life sciences at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, had shown that this form of Parkinson’s disease occurs because of the deterioration of specific mitochondria and neurons that affect the functioning of muscles. They also explained how two specific genes played an essential role in maintaining the integrity of those organisms; variations in the code of those genes can trigger the disease by interfering with the production of dopamine, essential to the transmission of nerve impulses that control bodily movements. Parkinson’s disease, with its characteristic tremors, slurred speech and loss of other bodily control, can either appear sporadically or be inherited. The Korean team studied the latter, genetically linked form of the disease. In experiments on fruit flies, the group showed how the two genes, called Parkin and PINK1, functioned together to keep mitochondria healthy. When one of the two genes malfunctioned, they said, mitochondria are destroyed, inducing the cell to which they are attached to self-destruct or produce abnormal amounts of an enzyme that ultimately destroys neurons. The team also found that a fruit fly in which Parkinson’s disease had been induced by an abnormal PINK1 gene could be nearly completely cured by stimulating the activity of the Parkin gene. “Our finding of this ‘pathway’ raises the possibility of developing treatment strategies and eventually developing a cure for Parkinson’s disease,” Mr. Chung said in an interview with the JoongAng Daily. The study will appear in the Web edition of Nature, a British scientific journal, beginning today. by Wohn Dong-hee

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