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Genetic switch discovery could help to prevent symptoms of Parkinsons disease

A genetic ‘switch’ has been discovered by MRC researchers at our University which could help to prevent or delay the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

In a paper published in the journal Cell Death and Differentiation, the team discovered that a gene called ATF4 plays a key role in Parkinson’s disease, acting as a ‘switch’ for genes that control mitochondrial metabolism for neuron health.

Dr Miguel Martins from the MRC Toxicology Unit at our University, who led the research, explained: “When the expression of ATF4 is reduced in flies, expression of these mitochondrial genes drops. This drop results in dramatic locomotor defects, decreased lifespan, and dysfunctional mitochondria in the brain.

“Interestingly, when we overexpressed these mitochondrial genes in fly models of Parkinson’s, mitochondrial function was reestablished, and neuron loss was avoided.”

By discovering the gene networks that orchestrate this process, the researchers have singled out new therapeutic targets that could prevent neuron loss.

The findings build upon recent research by the team, which recently discovered several genes that protect neurons in Parkinson’s disease, creating possibilities for new treatment options.

Watch a video about Dr Miguel Martins's pioneering Parkinson's research below:

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