News ArchivesRead News
Scientists ID Metabolic Link Between Aging, Parkinson’s
Friday May 30, 2014
Bioscience Technology -
University of Alabama researchers identified within animal models an enzyme that links genetic pathways that control aging with the death of dopamine neurons– a clinical hallmark of Parkinson’s disease.
Further study is needed, but the enzyme could later prove a target, the scientists said, for boosting efforts to prevent or reduce problems associated with the malfunction of dopamine-producing neurons in the brains of diseased patients.
“Discerning metabolic factors that maintain the health of cells from those that make an animal live longer has remained an elusive goal,” said Dr. Guy Caldwell, UA professor of biological sciences and the paper’s principal author. “This is a step in that direction.”
The research shows the “molecular intersection” where aging-associated degeneration and neurodegenerative diseases, like Parkinson’s, meet, said Caldwell.
Scheduled for publication in Cell Metabolism, the findings show that a gene the scientists discovered to be “neuroprotective” also codes for a basic enzyme in the breakdown of glucose, in the pathway of glycolysis. Glycolysis is the primary cellular pathway by which cells break down sugar to generate energy.
Research results were drawn from UA lab animal models including nematodes, worms known as C. elegans, as well as fruit flies, known as Drosophila melanogaster. Additional tests were conducted by collaborators at Harvard University who used neurons isolated from the brains of mice to corroborate the UA findings.
The six-year study began, Caldwell said, by accumulating a list of 625 genes that previous research had shown were involved in both aging and molecular problems associated with Parkinson’s.
Through a multi-tiered screening process, researchers in the Caldwell lab identified several genetic factors that exhibited a functional effect in the worms, but then homed in on what would become the targeted enzyme, known as GPI-1, or glucose-6-phosphate isomerase. This enzyme has a well-established role in the process of glycolysis.
When researchers in O’Donnell’s lab used genetic and biochemical techniques to make this enzyme inoperable in fruit flies, the flies’ abilities to move were hampered and their neurons in their brains were more easily damaged.
“Nematodes and fruit flies are very different,” O’Donnell said, “so the discovery of this connection between neuron health and this enzyme in both organisms, as well as in mouse neurons, is very exciting because it tells us that we’ve detected is likely to be important in our brains as well.”
As average life spans, and the percentage of elderly, both increase, it becomes increasingly important, Caldwell said, to seek measures that could potentially help those extended years become healthier ones.
“Research can help us distinguish between things that keep our neurons healthy versus things that simply keep us alive,” he said. “That distinction between life span and health span is becoming increasingly important as our population ages.”
The project also further validated the use of animal model systems to more quickly focus on potential therapeutic targets.
“It shows how we can narrow down those growing lists of genetic modifiers that are being found in patient populations and find the ones that functionally matter to neuron survival,” Caldwell said.
The research, funded by National Institutes of Health grants to both Caldwell and O’Donnell, also provided UA students an opportunity to positively impact their professional futures.
“It highlights how undergraduate researchers can play a substantial role in major biomedical research,” Caldwell said. Undergraduate co-authors were funded through a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and via donations from Parkinson’s patient support groups in Huntsville and Birmingham.
(30 May 2014). Bioscience Technology. Scientists ID Metabolic Link Between Aging, Parkinson’s. http://www.biosciencetechnology.com/news/2014/05/scientists-id-metabolic-link-between-aging-parkinson%E2%80%99s
Recent NewsMar 20 - March 20, 2018 News Update
Mar 13 - March 13, 2018 News Update
Mar 6 - March 6, 2018 News Update
Feb 27 - February 27, 2018 News Update
Feb 20 - February 20, 2018 News Update
Feb 13 - February 13, 2018 News Update
Feb 6 - February 6, 2018 News Update
Jan 30 - January 30, 2018 News Update
Jan 23 - January 23, 2018 News Update
Jan 16 - January 16, 2018 News Update
Jan 9 - January 9, 2018 News Update
Jan 2 - January 2, 2018 News Update
Dec 26 - December 26, 2017 News Update
Dec 19 - December 19, 2017 News Update
Dec 8 - New technique scours the genome for genes that combat disease
Dec 8 - Restless sleep may be an early sign of Parkinson's, dementia
Dec 1 - Defects in cell's 'waste disposal system' linked to Parkinson's
Dec 1 - Dual virtual reality/treadmill exercises promote brain plasticity in Parkinson's patients
Nov 17 - 'Moving Day' participant is not letting young-onset Parkinson's disease stop him
Nov 17 - Focused ultrasound shows promise for treating Parkinson's tremor