Parkinson’s disease can cause debilitating problems with movement and affects around 120,000 people in the UK every year. The causes of the disease are poorly understood and currently there is no cure. However, it is known that mutations in a single gene which codes for the PINK1 protein named lead to Parkinson’s disease, although up to now it was not known how the mutation caused disease.
PINK1 belongs to a family of enzymes known as protein kinases and is found within the batteries of the cell, known as mitochondria. The researchers used insect forms of the enzyme to develop a method to measure its activity for the first time.
The scientists discovered that disease mutations stop the enzyme working properly, and they suggest that: “Our work indicates that functional PINK1 is crucial for the survival of neurons and should lead to the identification of new targets in Parkinson’s disease.”
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