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Mayo Clinic: Brain disorder suggests common mechanism may underlie many neurodegenerative diseases
Date:1/11/2009

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. A Mayo Clinic-led international consortium has found a mechanism that may help explain Parkinson's and other neurological disorders.

Studying just eight families worldwide, the international team of researchers have discovered a genetic defect that results in profound depression and parkinsonism in a disorder known as Perry syndrome. Although this syndrome is exceedingly rare, the mechanism implicated in it may help explain the origins of a variety of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diseases, and even common depression and sleep disorders that are also hallmarks of the disorder, the researchers say.

In the study, to be published in the February issue of Nature Genetics (online January 11), the researchers report that people with Perry syndrome have mutations in a subunit of the dynactin complex (DCTN1; p150glued), which is essential to the movement of molecular "cargo" inside brain cells, or neurons. In this case, the mutations meant that the cargo was being driven on a "train" that essentially had faulty brakes. And because Perry syndrome resembles many other neurodegenerative diseases, the findings suggest breakdowns along the cell's interior transportation grid may be a common mechanism underlying neurodegeneration.

"Understanding why distinct neurons are selectively vulnerable to neurodegeneration in different brain disorders is one of the greatest puzzles in neuroscience," says the study's lead investigator, Matthew J. Farrer, Ph.D., a professor of neuroscience at Mayo Clinic. "These findings suggest that trafficking of specific cargoes inside brain cells may be a general problem in a variety of neurodegenerative diseases, depression, and other disorders."

"It points us to a unified theory of what is going wrong in many of them," says the study's senior author, Zbigniew K. Wszolek, M.D., professor of neurology at Mayo Clinic.

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Contact: Kevin Punskky
punsky.kevin@mayo.edu
904-953-2299
Mayo Clinic
Source:Eurekalert

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