Researcher: Professor Paul Fisher
Research Institute: La Trobe University
Professor Fisher and his research team are investigating mitochondrial function and cellular stress signalling biomarkers in immortalized lymphocytes from prodromal PD cohorts. Mitochondria are tiny compartments within cells, responsible for producing >90% of the cell’s energy in the form of a small energy-carrying molecule called ATP. Their previous studies showed that cultured (immortalized) white blood cells (lymphoblasts) from patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) have hyperactive but functionally normal mitochondria, elevated levels of ATP and proteins involved in mitochondrial energy metabolism, as well as higher activities of the cellular stress-sensing proteins AMPK and TORC1. None of these differences were affected by patient age or gender, disease duration or severity, suggesting that they may have been present and stable in preclinical disease stages. Combining them discriminated between PD and control cells with better than 80% reliability.
The research team hypothesize that mitochondrial and cellular stress-sensing differences between PD and control lymphoblasts from at-risk patients with early (prodromal) disease symptoms will allow detection and prediction of subsequent conversion to diagnosed PD.
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