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New gene therapy approach in mouse model of Parkinson's disease
By Bijal P. Trivedi

Researchers in Germany have developed a cocktail of genes that help protect and rejuvenate dopamine neurons whose destruction leads to Parkinson's disease. The studies were done in mice and the work was presented at the American Neurological Association's 125th annual meeting last week in Boston.

While researchers are not sure what triggers the death of dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra, the brain region affected in Parkinson's, they do know that proteins called caspases play a role. Jörg B. Schulz and his colleagues at the University of Tübingen are using the XIAP gene (X-chromosomal linked inhibitor of apoptosis), which inhibits caspases, and GDNF (glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor), which promotes the growth of neurons, to save dopamine brain cells.

The researchers are using an adenovirus to encapsulate both genes and carry them into dopamine neurons.

Schulz found that, together, both genes prevent the destruction of dopamine neurons and allow them to continue to transport dopamine to the striatum, a function essential for body movement.

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