A study conducted by scientists at the National Institutes of Health reveals dozens of genes that may represent new therapeutic targets for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders. Specifically, these genes regulate the disposal of dysfunctional mitochondria.
Mutations in the gene that codes for parkin, a protein that normally roams inside cells and tags damaged mitochondria as waste, have been linked to some cases of Parkinson’s disease. These mutations prevent tagging, resulting in accumulation of unhealthy mitochondria.
Using RNA interefernce (RNAi) technology, researchers were able to screen human cells to identify genes that help parkin tag damaged mitochondria. At least four genes were discovered that may potentially be new targets for treating neurological disorders.
Turning off some genes inhibited parkin tagging whereas switching off other genes enhanced tagging. These findings may be relevant for treating other diseases caused by damage to mitochondria including Charcot-Marie Tooth Syndrome.
For more information see the full NIH press release.