A team of researchers have identified an underlying mechanism in early onset Parkinson's. Using flies, mice and patient cells, the team focused on cardiolipin, a fat unique to cells' mitochondria, organelles that produce energy. They demonstrated that reducing the effects of the protein FASN influences the mitochondria, leading to increased cardiolipin levels and reduced Parkinson's symptoms. These results could pave the way to therapies for Parkinson's disease that target lipids. The team's research was published in the scientific magazine Journal of Cell Biology.
In genetic Parkinson's disease, a mutation in the PINK1 gene causes changes in neurons' mitochondria, leading to the degeneration of these neurons. In this study, the team observed that a protein responsible for lipid creation in cells, FASN, bypasses the genetic defect in mitochondria.
Senior author said: "Several drugs that block FASN already exist, as this protein is also important to cancer research and treatment. Many of them have already been used in clinical trials. Thanks to this research, we can now test them in the context of Parkinson's disease."
In the course of their research, the researchers encountered a surprising observation. Using fly, mouse and human cell models, they saw that FASN has a direct effect on mitochondria, which have their own separate genomes and operate as energy producing entities within their cells.