Breakthrough for Parkinson’s researchers after gene study

Researchers studying Parkinson’s disease believe a breakthrough is on the cards after designing a test that could control the spread of the condition

Scientists at the University of Dundee who examined the role of a specific gene hope their work could lead to a treatment being developed.

Their research focused on the LRRK2 gene which mutates to cause inherited forms of the illness.

Accounting for around 10 per cent of cases, the inherited form of Parkinson’s is prevalent in people who contract the disease early.

Elevated levels of the LRRK2 gene are also found in non-inherited Parkinson’s.

Researchers led by Professor Dario Alessi, alongside the Michael J Fox Foundation, GlaxoSmithKline and others, concluded that controlling this enzyme holds the key to developing a treatment for the disease.

Twelve years later

Alessi said he worked for 12 years to figure out how LRRK2 functions after the gene was first discovered in 2004.

He said: “What we’ve done is work out what LRRK2 does, how it functions because that wasn’t known.

“It took us 12 years and this was by far the hardest project I’ve worked on. A step-by-step running guide.

“GSK gave us the drug-like molecules to explore the biology and we did a lot of very sophisticated mass spectrometry, and we also worked with scientists in Munich and this enabled us to discover the key proteins that LRRK2 regulates directly.”

The painstaking work carried out by the team at the University of Dundee has now enabled top scientists at Denali Therapeutics in San Francisco, which specialises in finding ways to defeat neurodegenerative diseases, to commence testing LRRK2 inhibitors on humans.

Hope of stalling the disease

Alessi added: “Patients who have developed Parkinson’s disease at a very early stage, if they have elevated LRRK2 will take the inhibitor and the hope is that would stall or in time even reverse the progression of the disease.

“I think within the next year there are likely to be five or six companies doing similar trials to Denali.”

Neil Diamond who announced his retirement from touring earlier this week, and legendary Scottish comedian Billy Connolly are among those who suffer from the disease.

First published by The Scotsman.


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