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Current view on origins of Parkinsons disease challenged by new findings

The neurodegeneration that occurs in Parkinson’s disease is a result of stress on the endoplasmic reticulum in the cell rather than failure of the mitochondria as previously thought, according to a study in fruit flies.

Some inherited forms of early-onset Parkinson’s disease have typically been blamed on poorly functioning mitochondria, the powerhouses of cells. Without reliable sources of energy, neurons wither and die. This may not be the complete picture of what is happening within cells affected by Parkinson’s.

Researchers from the MRC Toxicology Unit used a common fruit fly to investigate this further; fruit flies were used because they provide a good genetic model for humans.

It was found that the bulk of the damage to neurons with damaged mitochondria stems from a related but different source - the neighbouring maze-like endoplasmic reticulum (ER).

Dr Miguel Martins from the MRC Toxicology Unit said: “This research challenges the current held belief the Parkinson’s disease is a result of malfunctioning mitochondria. By identifying and preventing ER stress in a model of the disease it was possible for us to prevent neurodegeneration. Lab experiments, like this, allow us to see what effect ER stress has on Parkinson’s disease. While the finding so far only applies to fruit flies, we believe further research could find that a similar intervention in people might help treat certain forms of Parkinson’s.”

You can watch a video explaining the research below:

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