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Northwestern MedicineNew Therapeutic Target for Parkinson’s Disease Discovered

Unveiling a cellular interaction breakdown in Parkinson’s Disease

In a groundbreaking discovery, Northwestern Medicine researchers have identified a novel mechanism involving the breakdown of contacts between two essential cellular components, lysosomes and mitochondria, in familial forms of Parkinson’s disease. This finding opens up new therapeutic opportunities and broadens the understanding of neurodegenerative disorders.

Key Points:

  • Mutations in the parkin gene result in a breakdown of contacts between lysosomes and mitochondria.
  • Lysosomes provide essential amino acids to support mitochondria, but this function is disrupted in some forms of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Dysfunctional mitochondria lead to degeneration of vulnerable neurons in Parkinson’s disease.
  • The study suggests that restoring mitochondria-lysosome contacts could be a new therapeutic opportunity.

Additional Points:

  • The study was conducted by a team including Wesley Peng, MD, PhD, and other contributors.
  • It was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.


  • This discovery highlights the importance of direct communication between cellular organelles in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders and opens a new avenue for Parkinson’s disease treatment.

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“Findings from this study suggest that dysregulation of mitochondria-lysosome contacts contributes to the Parkinson’s disease pathophysiology. We propose that restoring such mitochondria-lysosome contacts represents an important new therapeutic opportunity for Parkinson’s disease.”

Dimitri Krainc, MD, PhD
Senior Author of the Study

Chair and Aaron Montgomery Ward Professor of Neurology
Director of the Simpson Querrey Center for Neurogenetics
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