Recently, National Institutes of Health reports that it has possibly discovered certain genes that can be targeted for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.  Parkinson’s is a disorder of the central nervous system (which includes the brain and brain stem).  Early signs of the disease are shaking and impaired movement, while later signs may include problems with thinking, dementia, and depression.  Parkinson’s is mostly found in people over the age of 50.

Richard Youle is an investigator at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and is quoted saying, “We discovered a network of genes that may regulate the disposal of dysfunctional mitochondria, opening the door to new drug targets for Parkinson’s disease and other disorders”.  It is thought that Parkinson’s is brought about by the accumulation of damaged mitochondria that are not recycled by the body.  By understanding which genes are responsible for triggering the removal of dysfunctional mitochondria, we can seek to repair those apparently nonfunctional genes and thus curb Parkinson’s.

Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cells, using oxygen to convert chemical fuels into energy that the human body can use.  This chemical fuel is called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) and is used by the cells to carry out their individual functions.  Certain proteins that are found inside of cells are there to detect when mitochondria are not working properly.  Once these proteins find a dysfunctional mitochondria they tag it and the body dissolves the mitochondria.  This is a crucial part that needs to function properly in order for the body to get rid of the unwanted mitochondria.

With the development of new technologies we are now able to have a better understanding of how the mechanism of a disease works, and this insight can help scientists develop new treatments for many disorders that are devastating for afflicted individuals.