The team of scientists headed by Doctor Tim Matthias Strom from the Institute of Human Genetics at the Helmholtz Zentrum München and the Technische Universität München in cooperation with the Medical University of Vienna have identified a new inherited form of Parkinson’s disease. The study was based on the genetic examination of an Austrian family with many affected family members.
Using a new sequencing method, named exome sequencing, a mutation in the VPS35 gene was identified in all family members diagnosed with the disease. VPS35 forms part of the retromer complex that mediates important tasks in the intracellular transport of proteins.
The same mutation was subsequently identified in two further families. A second study, conducted in Canada, has also described this mutation in four families. Prior to that, VPS35 had been linked with Alzheimer’s disease. From their findings, the scientists have deduced that the intracellular mechanism with which the retromer controls protein sorting and recycling is a key factor in neurodegeneration.
“The discovery of new proteins involved in the origin of Parkinson’s disease not only represents a step forward in our understanding of the origins of the disease but also provides us with potential starting points for developing new therapies,” Strom explains. The aim of the Helmholtz Zentrum München is to comprehend the mechanisms that trigger widespread diseases and to deduce new approaches to their diagnosis, therapy and prevention.