Foundation for Mitochondrial Medicine

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Foundation for Mitochondrial Medicine

The Foundation for Mitochondrial Medicine Supports Mitochondria-Targeted Therapeutic Discovery Project to Treat Parkinson’s and Mitochondrial Disease


ATLANTA, GA –  June 25, 2014 – The Foundation for Mitochondrial Medicine (FMM) announced today that it is working with The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) to support a research project led by Wolfdieter Springer, PhD, at the Department of Neuroscience at Mayo Clinic in Florida to investigate a mitochondria-targeted therapeutic approach to treating Parkinson’s disease.

Cell death in Parkinson’s and other diseases is associated with impediment of the mechanism that degrades damaged mitochondria in cells. The protein parkin plays a role in that degradation, and parkin is affected in some cases of Parkinson’s by a mutation in its gene, PARK2 (genes encode proteins). Dr. Springer is researching ways to activate and stabilize the parkin protein, which may allow it to break down damaged mitochondria and thereby prevent cell death.

“Stabilizing parkin will be a positive strike for Parkinson’s disease and for mitochondrial disease, and we are pleased to collaborate with MJFF to forward this research,” said Laura Stanley, executive director of FMM. “Our mission is to fund the most promising treatments for the many forms of mitochondrial disease. Research like Dr. Springer’s can unlock potential cures for many related diseases, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Autism and others.”

Recent data show a “closed,” auto-inhibited conformation of parkin consistent with its low activity seen in Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Springer proposes that parkin’s auto-inhibition arises sequentially through post-translational modifications and structural rearrangements. Several therapeutic opportunities may exist along this multistep process, offering various targets to maintainor revert to the “open,” active parkin conformation.

Dr. Springer’s team will combine structural, computational with functional, cell-based methods to identify compounds that promote parkin activation. In subsequent follow-up studies, these could be further developed into neuroprotective agents to treat Parkinson’s and mitochondrial diseases.

“Mitochondrial dysfunction is an important focus of research toward a cure for Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Springer’s project against the parkin pathway could have great impact, both for people living with Parkinson’s and with other mitochondrial diseases,” said Marco Baptista, PhD, MJFF associate director of research programs. “We are grateful to FMM for its support of this study.”

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About the Foundation for Mitochondrial Medicine (FMM): The Foundation for Mitochondrial Medicine’s mission is to support the development of the most promising research and treatments for the many forms of mitochondrial disease.  Cures for mitochondrial diseases could impact cures for Autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Lou Gehrig’s disease among others.  For more information on FMM funded research such as functional MRI studies on cognitive fatigue and testing of new drug compounds, visit www.mitochondrialdiseases.org

Media Contacts:

FMM: Jennifer Grizzle, jennifer@theprstudio.com, 770.409.1152

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