Parkinson’s Disease :: Brain protein pathway may be a key to parkinson’s disease

A protein called HIPK2 is essential for the survival of dopamine neurons, the cells lost in Parkinson’s disease, according to a study in mice. The results suggest that the molecular pathway in which the protein functions could be a possible new target for therapy, the study authors say.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system in which dopamine neurons die. Normally, these cells produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, which transmits signals along brain pathways to allow smooth, coordinated function of the body’s muscles and movement. The loss of the cells leads to progressive impairment in motor skills and speech.

Scientists have speculated that HIPK2 might play a role in the survival of dopamine neurons, says principal investigator Eric J. Huang, MD, PhD, a staff physician at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, “but this is the first demonstration in a living organism that knocking out HIPK2 leads to the death of these cells.”

The study appears in the January 2007 issue of Nature Neuroscience.

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