Further Insight Into Causes of Parkinson's Disease

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In humans, a dearth of the neurotransmitter dopamine has long been known to play a role in Parkinson's disease. It is also known that mutations in a protein called parkin cause a form of Parkinson's that is inherited.

Now, UCLA scientists, reporting in the Jan. 31 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, have put the two together. Using a new model of Parkinson's disease they developed in the simple Drosophila (fruit fly), the researchers show for the first time that a mutated form of the human parkin gene inserted into Drosophila specifically results in the death of dopaminergic cells, ultimately resulting in Parkinson's-like motor dysfunction in the fly. Thus, the interaction of mutant parkin with dopamine may be key to understanding the cause of familial Parkinson's disease

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