Research in the laboratory of Professor Anton Gartner has discovered two novel molecules that could help in the fight against Parkinson’s disease. The work published in back to back papers in PLOS Genetics show that these two molecules protect against loss of dopaminergic neurons. This loss is one of the hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease.

Dopamine, that is produced by dopaminergic neurons, is an important chemical messenger to mediate diverse behaviours. Oxidative stress, caused by the overabundance of reactive oxygen species or a decreased cellular defence against these chemicals, is linked to the loss of these neurons in Parkinson’s disease.

In their studies, Professor Gartner and his team based in the Centre of Gene Regulation and Expression used the nematode C. elegans, a well-characterised model organism whose dopamine signalling system is very similar to that of humans. Using this model, they searched for genes that protect dopaminergic neurons against oxidative stress. Each paper describes the discovery of one of the molecules that protects these neurons.

Much of the research was conducted by Dr Sarah-Lena Offenburger as part of her Wellcome funded PhD studies in the Gartner lab and built on preliminary work funded by Parkinson’s UK. In order to complete the studies, Sarah-Lena was supported by the ISSF Bridging fund. Sarah-Lena has since left Dundee to undertake a postdoctoral position with Ben Lehner at the Centre for Genomic Regulation, Barcelona.

Publications are available to read here: