Discovery could help slow Parkinson’s progression

Discovery could help slow Parkinson’s progression

Illuminate newsletter index page, March 2019
March 2019

Associate Professor Grant Dewson and Mr Jonathan Bernardini
Mr Jonathan Bernardini and Associate Professor Grant
Dewson have discovered how a protein called Parkin ‘buys time’
for cells to repair.

Our researchers have discovered how a protein called Parkin – which is lost in certain forms of Parkinson’s disease – ‘buys time’ for cells to repair.

The discovery could underpin the development of new therapies that slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease by saving cells that would otherwise die off.

The research was led by Mr Jonathan Bernardini and Associate Professor Grant Dewson.

Protecting against Parkinson’s

More than 80,000 Australians live with Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative condition characterised by the death of neurons and inflammation in the brain.

“Parkin is absent or faulty in half the cases of early onset Parkinson’s disease.”

Mr Bernardini said the protein Parkin was implicated in the development of Parkinson’s disease.

“Parkin is absent or faulty in half the cases of early onset Parkinson’s disease, as well as in some other, sporadic cases.

In a healthy brain, Parkin helps keep cells alive, and decreases the risk of harmful inflammation by repairing damage to mitochondria, which are responsible for supplying energy to cells.

'Buying time' for repair

Associate Professor Dewson said Parkin essentially bought time for cell repair, allowing a cell’s innate repair mechanisms to respond to damage.

“Without Parkin – or with faulty variants of Parkin that are found in patients with early-onset Parkinson’s disease – excessive cell death can occur. This unrestrained cell death may contribute to the neuronal loss in Parkinson’s disease,” he said.

By understanding how cell death and inflammation occur in Parkinson’s disease, the researchers hope new therapies may be developed that could slow the progression of the disease.

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