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article imageBaker’s yeast could help combat Parkinson’s

By Tim Sandle     Apr 7, 2014 in Science
Researchers think that baker's yeast may have the potential for combating neurological conditions like Parkinson's and cancer.
The application involves using the simplicity and genetic power of the baker's yeast (called Saccharomyces cerevisiae) to understand basic cellular processes underlying Parkinson's disease. Baker's yeast is the common name for the strains of yeast commonly used as a leavening agent in baking bread and bakery products, where it converts the fermentable sugars present in the dough into carbon dioxide and ethanol.
For the research, scientists studied a family of proteins in the humble yeast which are related to a human protein known as DJ-1. Mutations in the human DJ-1 protein cause early-onset inherited forms of Parkinson's disease. The yeast contains similar proteins called: Hsp31, Hsp32, Hsp33, and Hsp34. This similarity makes the yeast an ideal candidate for study.
Though the human protein DJ-1 has been linked to Parkinson's disease, its central cellular role is not well understood, and thus it is not clear why mutations in this protein cause this devastating disease. The scientists discovered that the yeast versions of the human protein are important for maintenance of normal lifespan of the yeast cell and are involved in regulation of autophagy -- a process which the cell employs to breakdown and recycle damaged cellular components. Lifespan and autophagy are central processes in the context of both Parkinson's disease and cancer. Based on this, the identified proteins provide researchers with a new model to explore.
The researchers were based at the University Medical Center Goettingen, University of Leicester, and Instituto de Medicina Molecular, Lisbon. The findings have been published in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science), the paper is titled “Yeast DJ-1 superfamily members are required for diauxic-shift reprogramming and cell survival in stationary phase.”
More about baker's yeast, Yeast, Parkinson's Disease, neural
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