A new study suggests that the secret of solving the “Parkinson’s riddle” lies in the mitochondria, the part of the cell responsible for respiration and metabolism.
The research, conducted by the University of Bergen, discovered that the mitochondria in our brain cells were not able to adapt to the effects of aging in people who get Parkinson’s disease.
Neurologist Dr Charalampos Tzoulis, who directed the study at the University’s Department of Clinical Medicine and Haukeland University Hospital, said: “It is known that the DNA of mitochondria is damaged during aging, causing failure in the power generators, lack of energy and disease”.
To discover this, the scientists compared brain cells from healthy aged persons to those of individuals with the disease.
They found that the brain cells of healthy persons are able to compensate for the age-induced damage by producing more DNA in their mitochondria.
The mitochondria, often referred to as the “powerhouse” of the cell, generate their own DNA to restore vital functions in the cell.
However, this mechanism is weakened in patients with Parkinson’s disease, leading to a loss of healthy cells in the brain.
“I believe we have discovered an essential biological mechanism that normally preserves and protects the brain from aging related damage. Intriguingly, this mechanism appears to fail in persons with Parkinson’s disease rendering their brain more vulnerable to the effects of aging,” said Dr Tzoulis.
“We hope that our findings may be the key to a future treatment. There is generally very little knowledge about the mechanisms causing Parkinson’s disease. Now, we are a step closer to understanding these mechanisms and we may have a target to strike at for therapy”.
Approximately one in every 500 people develops Parkinson’s, a progressive neurological condition which causes the sufferer’s reactions to slow and make everyday activities difficult, frustrating, or even impossible.