New breakthrough in Parkinson’s research

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Sheffield University researchers have found vital new evidence on how to target and reverse the effects caused by one of the most common genetic causes of Parkinson’s Disease.

Mutations in a gene called LRRK2 carry a well-established risk for Parkinson’s - but the basis for the link is unclear.

The Sheffield team, which includes Dr Kurt De Vos and Dr Alex Whitworth, found that certain drugs could fully restore movement problems observed in fruit flies carrying the mutation.

The drugs target the transport system and reverse the defects caused by the faulty LRRK2 within nerve cells.

Dr De Vos said: “Our study provides compelling evidence that there is a direct link between defective transport within nerve cells and movement problems caused by the LRRK2 Parkinson’s mutation in flies.”

Co-investigator Dr Alex Whitworth added: “We could also show that these defects caused by the LRRK2 mutation are reversible.

“By targeting the transport system with drugs, we could not only prevent movement problems, but also fully restore movement abilities in fruit flies who already showed impaired movement marked by a significant decrease in both climbing and flight ability.”

Dr Beckie Port at Parkinson’s UK, which helped to fund the study, said: “This research gives hope that, for people with a particular mutation in their genes, it may one day be possible to intervene and stop the progression of the disease.

“So far the study has only been carried out in fruit flies, so much more research is needed before we know if these interesting findings could lead to new treatment approaches for people with Parkinson’s.”