New protein could hold the key to stopping Parkinson's

Tigar, a newly discovered protein in the world of Parkinson's, could be the key to stopping the degenerative disease according to research from the University of Sheffield.

Scientists from the Sheffield Institute of Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) and the MRC Centre for Developmental and Biomedical Genetics (CDBG), both University of Sheffield,  found that by blocking the protein, nerve cells usually lost in the progression of Parkinson's could be saved – potentially halting the spread of the condition.

The ground breaking research, published in Annals of Neurology, was conducted by Dr Oliver Bandmann and his team who looked at the cell death of dopamine-producing nerve cells in zebrafish with a mutation in a gene called PINK1.
PINK1 is linked to a rare, inherited form of early-onset Parkinson’s in humans.

The team discovered that Tigar became overactive in the PINK1 zebrafish suggesting that it may be involved in causing the death of nerve cells, triggering the start of Parkinson’s.

By blocking the activity of Tigar, the researchers were able to save the dopamine-producing nerve cells. It is these precious cells which are also lost in people with Parkinson’s. So, if blocking Tigar activity has the same effect in people it could have the potential to stop the spread of Parkinson’s.

Lead researcher, Dr Oliver Bandmann, Reader in Neurology at SITraN, said: “These results suggest that we may have unearthed a promising new target for developing treatments that can actually protect dopamine-producing nerve cells lost in Parkinson’s.

“The first stage of our study was in tiny fish brains which are in many ways both very similar and very different to ours. As a result of these exciting findings we will now look at brain tissue from people with early-onset Parkinson’s as well as people with late-onset Parkinson’s, to see whether the Tigar protein is involved in all forms of the condition. We will also study Tigar in other model systems of Parkinson’s.

“If the next steps of our research go well, and we are right about Tigar, this could help us to develop treatments for people with Parkinson’s that might at least help to slow down the progression of the disease in its tracks – which would be a huge breakthrough.”

One person every hour will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s in UK. The causes of Parkinson’s – a progressive condition which causes tremor, stiffness and loss of movement to develop – remain unknown.

Claire Bale, Research Communications Manager at Parkinson’s UK, adds: “This new research, holds real promise in helping to slow down, or even stop the spread of Parkinson’s. This could move our search for better treatments, which are desperately needed, another step forward.  We await the results of Dr Bandmann’s research with much anticipation”.

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