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Parkinson’s: scientists are opening up an enzyme that slows its progression

A team of researchers from the University of Dundee has made a discovery that can counteract Parkinson’s disease at an early stage of its development. Researchers in the Phosphorylation and Protein Disposal Unit (MRC-PPU) of the Medical Research Council discovered a new enzyme that inhibits the pathway of LRRK2, the gene that is the most common cause of Parkinson’s disease. The enzyme they found, called PPM1H, is thought to have remarkable properties that can reverse the biological processes caused by LRRK2.

Dario Alessi, director of the MRC-PPU, explains these results as follows: “Parkinson is like a running train: we can’t slow it down right now, let alone stop it. This new enzyme acts as a brake mechanism on the path that causes Parkinson’s disease in humans. We know for many years that the pathway of LRRK2 is the driving force behind Parkinson’s disease, but the concept of developing an activator system for the PPM1H Parkinson’s disease treatment is completely new. This discovery paves the way for a new chemical approach to research on Parkinson’s treatments.”

Currently, researchers are trying to understand whether it is possible to develop a drug to inhibit LRRK2. However, there is a real possibility that this drug will not be well tolerated by the body, and so the same researchers are simultaneously exploring other ways, given that the enzyme PPM1H is present in all people, including patients with Parkinson’s disease, and that if you can find a way to “turn it on,” you can benefit from it.

That would be a huge step forward, given that there are currently no drugs that slow the development of this disease, which involves 6 million people around the world. In addition, this discovery raises an interesting question: if the enzyme PPM1H is in more quantities in the brain of some people, are they naturally protected by Parkinson’s disease?

Links:

https://www.dundee.ac.uk/news/2019/discovery-may-help-derail-parkinsons-runaway-train.php

https://elifesciences.org/articles/50416

Martin Hill

An accomplished journalist and freelancer, Martin has held a long career in media and has worked for numerous different agencies. He was an editor for the Arizona Business Gazette for over 10 years before joining the Tucson Weekly (tucsonweekly.com) and founding Science In Me, a new publication with the aim of reporting on science news over the internet. Beyond having extensive writing and research experience, Martin is also a science enthusiast with a passion for science and technology. In his younger life, he had studied mechanical engineering before moving on to journalism.
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Martin Hill