NWPF

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 News

Sep 12 - Australian Researchers Develop New Diagnostic Tool to Spot Early Signs of Parkinson’s
Sep 11 - GeneFo Webinar to Focus on Using Humor to Manage Parkinson’s Disease
Sep 6 - Parkinson’s and the ‘D’ word
Sep 6 - Compounds in Asthma Drugs Might Be Used as Parkinson’s Treatment
Sep 5 - AstraZeneca Joins Takeda, Berg to Advance Development of Parkinson’s Disease Therapies
Sep 1 - Stem Cell Transplant Trial in Parkinson’s Patients Planned After Test in Japan Succeeds in Monkeys
Sep 1 - Titan to Start Phase 1/2 Study of Subdermal Implant to Deliver Requip to Parkinson’s Patients
Aug 30 - FDA Refuses Acorda’s Inbrija New Drug Application Due to Manufacturing Questions
Aug 23 - Support Groups: Are They for You?
Aug 22 - Internet Visits with Parkinson’s Specialist Can Be as Effective as In-person Visits, Trial Finds
Aug 21 - Cavion’s New CMO to Lead Cav3 Platform Development for Neurological Diseases
Aug 15 - Singing Helps Early-stage Parkinson’s Patients Retain Speech, Respiratory Control, Studies Show
Aug 14 - 16 Tips to Increase Your Mobility Confidence While Living With Parkinson’s Disease
Aug 10 - Boxers are fighting back against Parkinson’s
Aug 9 - Parkinson’s Experiment to Be Aboard Next Flight to International Space Station
Aug 9 - Parkinson’s Disease and Sleeping with the Enemy
Aug 7 - The Importance of Oral Health in Parkinson’s Disease
Aug 7 - Researchers Gain Better Insight Into Alpha-Synuclein’s Role in Parkinson’s Disease
Jul 31 - New Digital Cognitive Assessment Tool Receives Positive FDA Review
Jul 20 - Parkinson’s DREAM Challenge Uses Mobile Sensor Data to Monitor Health Based on Movement