Genetic mutation, inability to respond to growth factors and aging
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Germany have studied the survival of dopaminergic nervous cells (the ones that die in Parkinson's disease) in mice in order to establish the factors responsible for their death. They have discovered that they die only when three factors co-exist:
- genetic mutation (their mice carried a mutation of gene DJ-1, also known as PARK-7 in view of its involvement in Parkinson's disease),
- inability to respond to growth factors (in their laboratory GDNF, a neurotrophic factor derived from glia i.e. from neuron support cells), because the receptors for them had disappeared from their membrane
- aging: the cells died only when the mice became elderly
The discovery is important, because the availability of growth factors depends on environmental factors. This discovery supports the well known theory that Parkinson’s disease is due to the interaction of genetic and environmental factors.
Source: press release on the site of the Max Planck Institute in Germany