The Brain of a Fruit Fly Yields Clues to Parkinson’s-Like Symptoms in Children

A recent study in MedicalXpress investigates a mutation that contributes to Parkinson’s-like symptoms in children. The mutation interrupts the movement of dopamine. The new study was conducted using fruit flies as models.

Parkinson’s is characterized by the progressive decline of neurons in the brain leading to a disruption in coordination and movement. Its cause is still unknown. The treatments currently available focus on the replacement or improvement of dopamine levels and the reduction of movement symptoms.

However, the drugs are known to have side effects and eventually lose efficacy.

The Goal

To study a rare mutation that causes Parkinson ’s-like symptoms in young children.

The Method

Studying rare mutations that can lead to similar symptoms and new approaches to alleviate those symptoms. The research team studied fruit flies that were genetically modified with a mutation called dopamine transporter deficiency syndrome (DTDS), a Parkinson’s-like disorder that affects young children.

The mutation impairs the function of a “gate protein” that moves dopamine into the cell. The protein then builds up outside the cell. This in turn impedes the flies from “taking off into flight”.

The next step was to use chloroquine, a malaria drug that has proven to increase other proteins and alleviate movement problems.

Although chloroquine is commonly used, its side effects make it unattractive as a drug to treat Parkinson’s disease except in very rare cases.

According to senior author Aurelio Galli, of Alabama University’s Surgery Department, this study paves the way for improving the function of the dopamine transporting protein. She calls the study a “blueprint” to improving dopamine transport.

The Results

Results of the study suggest that improving the function of the dopamine transporting protein may relieve movement symptoms and put a halt to the loss of dopamine production.

The study provided detailed insights into the mutation’s effect on young children. Previous evidence was provided showing that therapies that improve dopamine balance in the brain actually mitigate some symptoms in fruit flies proving that the treatment can be beneficial.

The team showed that the mutation disrupts the function of a ‘gate’ protein. The gate protein is then unable to function, causing buildup, and slows the motor coordination of the flies. The build-up eventually leads to less dopamine production and increases movement problems as well as other issues.


Based on the information generated by the new study and evidence from previous studies, it appears that improving the brain’s dopamine balance should be considered for future treatment strategies.

Professor Galli calls their study a “blueprint”. It indicates that improving the function of the dopamine-transporting protein could put a stop to the loss of dopamine and movement symptoms could be relieved. The study could be a precursor to more research into new approaches focusing on improvement in dopamine transport.

Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) six years ago. During this period of partial remission, Rose researched investigational drugs to be prepared in the event of a relapse. Her husband died February 12, 2021 with a rare and unexplained occurrence of liver cancer possibly unrelated to AML.

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