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Scientists identified a gene, capable of protecting cells from neurodegenerative diseases

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Posted August 3, 2016

Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases arguably are the most well-known neurodegenerative diseases. Although they are very different in terms of mechanisms behind them, progression and prevalence, they do have some commonalities. For example, ‘protein clumps’ are known to be the cause of all of them. Now a new study identified the mechanism how cells protect themselves from these protein clumps.

Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s and many other diseases are caused by toxic protein clumps, which appear when UBQLN2 gene is faulty. Image credit: Allan Ajifo via Wikimedia, CC-BY-2.0

Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s and many other diseases are caused by toxic protein clumps, which appear when UBQLN2 gene is faulty. Image credit: Allan Ajifo via Wikimedia, CC-BY-2.0

International team of scientists discovered that there is a gene, called UBQLN2, which untangles dangerous protein clumps and then shreds them. In this way, cells are protected from the dangerous effects of the forming of such clumps, which include development of neurodegenerative diseases. These protein clumps are pretty much unavoidable, they form as the body is aging. However, UBQLN2 usually takes care of them, unless it mutates or is faulty – this is where the real trouble begins.

These toxic protein clumps are recognized to be the cause of such diseases as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s – mutated UBQLN2 can no longer remove protein clumps from nerve cells in the brain. It has been noticed before that faulty UBQLN2 can cause Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis with Frontotemporal Dementia, but until now scientists could not say why. Extensive research, involving biochemistry, cell biology and sophisticated mouse models, revealed the function of the UBQLN2 and now scientists are thinking about future researches that will involve the development of novel therapies.

This research is incredibly important for many neurodegenerative diseases patients. Dr Roland Hjerpe, one of the authors of the study, said: “Our study has revealed a new mechanism by which nerve cells cope with protein clumps in general, which has implications for most neurodegenerative diseases and can open up avenues for new therapeutic interventions to treat these conditions in the future”. However, more research is needed to collect more information about the UBQLN2 gene and only later all this knowledge can be used to develop new ways to treat neurodegenerative diseases.

This is only the beginning of a long way towards more effective ways to treat such neurodegenerative diseases as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases. However, it is good to know that first steps are already made and they are marked with significant discoveries.

Source: gla.ac.uk

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