Potential indicator for the early detection of dementia, Parkinson’s

Researchers at the University of Basel have discovered a factor that could support the early detection of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. This cytokine is induced by cellular stress reactions after disturbances of the mitochondria, the “cell’s power plants,” as neuropathologists write in the journal Cell Reports.

The normal functioning of human cells is based on the coordinated interaction of different cellular organelles. In many cases, an impaired communication between these organelles will lead to the activation of a stress response to ensure the survival of affected cells. A research group was able to demonstrate this in detail for brain neurons. The group is headed by Prof. Dr. Stephan Frank from the Institute of Medical Genetics and Pathology at the University of Basel and University Hospital of Basel; the universities of Cambridge (UK) and Padua (Italy) were also involved.

The neuropathologists were able to show that impairments on the level of mitochondria, commonly known as the “cell’s powerhouses,” also affect neighboring organelles, such as the so-called endoplasmic reticulum. A consecutively activated stress reaction leads to the release of fibroblast growth factor-21 (FGF21) by nerve cells with disturbed mitochondria. The Basel researchers further observed that the same substance is also induced in various models of neurodegenerative disorders, where it can be detected prior to neuronal cell death.

Full story at Science Daily

Fat gene and mitochondria: Surprising cellular connection sheds new light on energy control

Researchers led by Dr. Helen McNeill at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute have revealed an unusual biochemical connection. Their discovery has implications for diseases linked to mitochondria, which are the primary sources of energy production within our cells.

Dr. McNeill’s team has an international reputation for their work in understanding how cells become organized into tissues and how growth is regulated during development. The group focuses on mutations in the fat (ft) gene. The protein product of this gene, called ‘Fat’, acts at the cell membrane to promote adhesion and communication between cells. Mutations in ft can cause cells to overgrow and become tumours. This occurs partially through the Hippo pathway, a pathway that is frequently activated in cancers such as liver, breast, ovarian and sarcomas.

Fat proteins are typically thought to work at the cell surface, but the team’s paper, published in the journal Cell, uncovers for the first time that a piece of the Fat protein is actually processed and delivered into the mitochondria where it influences the energy status of the cell. Importantly, when this particular component is missing, the energy generating pipeline inside mitochondria become destabilized, leading to loss of energy production.

Full story of fat gene and energy control at Science Daily