A U of G researcher has discovered one of the factors behind nerve cell death in Parkinson’s disease, unlocking the potential for treatment to slow the progression of this fatal neurodegenerative disorder.
Prof. Scott Ryan has found that cardiolipin, a molecule inside nerve cells, helps ensure that a protein called alpha-synuclein folds properly. Misfolding of this protein leads to protein deposits that are the hallmark of Parkinson’s disease.
These deposits are toxic to nerve cells that control voluntary movement. When too many of these deposits accumulate, nerve cells die.
“Identifying the crucial role cardiolipin plays in keeping these proteins functional means cardiolipin may represent a new target for development of therapies against Parkinson’s disease,” says Ryan, a professor in U of G’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.
“Currently there are no treatments that stop nerve cells from dying.”