According to the Parkinson’s News Today; in the UK, NRG Therapeutics has been awarded £1 million (about $1.3 million) to continue advancing their studies on the mitochondria responsible for producing dopamine, which do not function correctly in Parkinson’s patients. So far, they’ve created a small molecule which can enter the the brain and reach the mitochondria. They plan to further the device to stop the brain cell death which progresses the disease. The prize money is awarded by the nonprofit Parkinson’s UK, which is currently donating £4 million to promising studies on potential treatments for Parkinson’s.
Parkinson’s disease is a rare neurological disease commonly known for its symptomatic shaking. The progressive disease damages the central nervous system, beginning with a mild shake and progressing into more severe tremors, imbalance, difficulty talking, walking, and in more severe cases, hallucinations and delusions. The onset occurs later in life, with diagnosis overwhelmingly occurring after age 50. The disease has no cure, but has increasingly has symptomatic treatment options.
Brain Cell Death
A core feature of the neurological disorder is the malfunctioning brain cell (neuron) activity- with patients experiencing widespread death of the neurons that create dopamine. Dopamine is popularly known for its role in pleasure, but the neurotransmitter is moreover a messenger between brain cells, helping with other behaviors like focus, learning, attention, mood, movement, pain processing, and sleep.
The researchers at NRG Therapeutics believe that the dopamine deficit is due to malfunctioning mitochondria, which would typically produce energy for the brain cells. The team has already begun their research into helping repair malfunctioning mitochondria, which typically produce energy in the nerve cells in the brain. They hope that by repairing the energy production, the can prevent the mass death of nerve cells that occurs as Parkinson’s progresses.
Fixing Malfunctioning Mitochondria
In their first year of study, the team created minuscule molecules that were then put into patient’s brains to reach the faulty mitochondria. Now, they hope to find ways to act on the mitochondria to protect nerve cells. If this has tangible findings, they could be on track to finding better therapies for the patients than anything currently available.
In a press release, they wrote, “Despite the current challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve relentlessly persisted with many research projects, like this one, aimed at creating life-changing treatments. With 145,000 people living with Parkinson’s in the UK and the charity on the brink of so many potential breakthroughs, we cannot afford to slow down now.”
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