Parkinson's disease protein might kill TB

Posted Sep 6, 2013 by Tim Sandle
A protein which is being studied as part of Parkinson's disease research has been found to play a key role in causing the destruction of bacteria that cause tuberculosis.
For several years researchers have been studding a protein called Parkin. The protein is associated with a loss of nerve cells and a form of genetic mutation may be one of the most common known genetic causes of early-onset Parkinson’s disease.
Tuberculosis is estimated to have killed 1.4 million people in 2011. 'TB' is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria. Tuberculosis typically attacks the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. It is spread through the air when people who have an active TB infection cough, sneeze, or otherwise transmit respiratory fluids through the air
Recently scientists have found that Parkin also acts on tuberculosis, triggering destruction of the bacteria by immune cells known as macrophages. To explore this further, researchers are investigating ways to increase Parkin activity in mice infected with tuberculosis to see if this results in the destruction of the infectious bacteria.
The infectious agent for tuberculosis is Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacterium is different from many other bacteria in that it attacks by using the body’s own immune cells. This is where scientists think that the Parkin protein can be used to combat the bacteria. The TB bacterium often escapes from the body’s immune system cells (the macrophages) by secreting its own protein that allows it to get free. It is hoped that a medication based on Parkin would prevent the bacterium from using their ‘escape plan’, leading to them being killed by the body’s natural defenses.
The research has been conducted at UC San Francisco. The early research findings have been published in the journal Nature, in a paper titled “The ubiquitin ligase parkin mediates resistance to intracellular pathogens.”