The researchers found that when they reduced VGLUT levels in female flies, it lowered the flies’ protection from neurodegeneration associated with aging.
“From flies to rodents to human beings, we found that VGLUT levels distinguish males from females during healthy aging,” said Zachary Freyberg, M.D., Ph.D., the study’s senior author and assistant professor of psychiatry and cell biology at the University of Pittsburgh. “The fact that this marker of dopamine neuron survival is conserved across the animal kingdom suggests that we are looking at a fundamental piece of biology. Understanding how this mechanism works can help prolong dopamine neuron resilience and delay aging.”
According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, nearly 1 million people in the United States are living with Parkinson’s, with nearly 60,000 diagnosed each year. Although your risk increases with age, about 4% of those diagnosed are younger than age 50.
“We are entering an epidemic of Parkinson’s disease, and we need to understand how to make our neurons more resilient,” said Freyberg. “VGLUT is a tantalizing new target that is key to not only understanding the fundamental biology at the core of dopamine neurons’ survival, but ultimately for developing new therapeutics.”
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