A new study suggests that a key to Parkinson’s disease may lie in the mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cell.

The results were published in Nature Communications.

Mitochondria, it seems, are not able to adapt to the effects of aging in people who get Parkinson’s disease. Mitochondria contain their own DNA, which tell them how to build their power generators. In this study, researchers compared brain cells from healthy aged persons to those of individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

The researchers discovered that brain cells of healthy persons are able to compensate for the age-induced damage by producing more DNA in their mitochondria. This protective mechanism is weakened in individuals with Parkinson’s disease, leading to a loss of the mitochondria’s healthy DNA population.

“I believe we have discovered an essential biological mechanism that normally preserves and protects the brain from aging related damage. Intriguingly, this mechanism appears to fail in persons with Parkinson’s disease, rendering their brain more vulnerable to the effects of aging,” said neurologist Dr Charalampos Tzoulis, who directed the study.

Paper: “Defective mitochondrial DNA homeostasis in the substantia nigra in Parkinson disease”
Reprinted from materials provided by the University of Bergen.

February 24, 2017