Scientists find a rare genetic shield against Parkinson’s

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In a recent study at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, scientists have made an exciting discovery.

They found a special kind of mutation in a tiny protein that could be a big help in the fight against Parkinson’s disease.

This protein is called SHLP2, and it’s found inside a part of our cells called the mitochondria. Mitochondria are like tiny power plants in our cells, and SHLP2 helps them work properly.

The researchers found that a certain version of SHLP2, which is a bit different from the usual one, is very good at protecting against Parkinson’s disease.

People with this special version are only half as likely to get Parkinson’s as those who don’t have it. This special SHLP2 is quite rare and mostly found in people of European heritage.

The team at USC first spotted SHLP2 in 2016. They noticed that this protein plays a role in defending the body against diseases that often come with getting older, like cancer.

They also found that people with Parkinson’s have different amounts of SHLP2 in their cells. The body tries to make more SHLP2 when someone has Parkinson’s, but as the disease gets worse, it struggles to keep up.

The latest discovery about SHLP2 adds to what the scientists already knew about how our mitochondria work and how they relate to aging and diseases like Parkinson’s.

It shows that looking closely at these tiny proteins can give us new ideas for treating or even preventing these kinds of diseases.

To find this out, the research team, led by Su-Jeong Kim, did some high-tech experiments. They looked at thousands of people’s DNA from big health studies like the Health & Retirement Study and the Framingham Heart Study.

They were searching for differences in the mitochondrial DNA of people with and without Parkinson’s. They found this protective version of SHLP2 in about 1% of Europeans, which cuts the risk of Parkinson’s in half.

This special version of SHLP2 is slightly different in its structure because of a tiny change in its genetic code. This little change makes SHLP2 work better and stay stable longer inside the mitochondria.

It sticks to an important enzyme there, called mitochondrial complex 1. This enzyme is vital for our cells to work right. If it stops working well, it can lead to not just Parkinson’s, but also strokes and heart attacks.

Having the stronger version of SHLP2 means this enzyme works better, which helps keep the mitochondria healthy. This was shown to be true in both lab tests with human cells and experiments with mice.

This study is a big step in understanding how certain genetic changes can protect us from diseases like Parkinson’s. The team hopes that their findings will lead to new treatments and help us understand other mutations in these tiny but important proteins.

The research was a big team effort, with contributions from scientists at USC, the National Institutes of Health, and Boston University.

If you care about Parkinson’s disease, please read studies about Vitamin E that may help prevent Parkinson’s disease, and Vitamin D could benefit people with Parkinson’s disease.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about new way to treat Parkinson’s disease, and results showing COVID-19 may be linked to Parkinson’s disease.

The research findings can be found in Molecular Psychiatry.

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