A Belgian neuroscientist has succeeded in undoing the effect of one of the genetic defects that leads to Parkinson’s using Vitamin K2.
“It appears from our research that administering Vitamin K2 could possibly help patients with Parkinson’s. However, more work needs to be done to understand this better,” said Patrik Verstreken, who is associated with The Flanders Institute for Biotechnology and KU Leuven. He also worked with colleagues at Northern Illinois University on the research, which has been published online in the journal Science.
Verstreken uses a factory to explain what happens with Parkinson’s patients: “If we looked at cells as small factories, then mitochondria would be the power plants responsible for supplying the energy for their operation. In Parkinson’s patients, the activity of mitochondria and the transport of electrons have been disrupted, resulting in the mitochondria no longer producing sufficient energy for the cell. This has major consequences as the cells in certain parts of the brain will start dying off, disrupting communication between neurons. The results are the typical symptoms of Parkinson’s: Lack of movement (akinesia), tremors and muscle stiffness.
While the exact cause of Parkinson’s is not known, scientists have been able to pinpoint several genetic defects found in Parkinson’s patients, including the so-called PINK1 and Parkin mutations, which both lead to reduced mitochondrial activity, the researcher said.
For their research, Verstreken and his team used fruit flies with a genetic defect in PINK1 or Parkin that is similar to the one associated with Parkinson’s. They found that the flies with a PINK1 or Parkin mutation lost their ability to fly.
Upon closer examination, they discovered that the mitochondria in these flies were defective, just as in Parkinson’s patients. Because of this they generated less intracellular energy – energy the insects needed to fly. When the flies were given Vitamin K2, the energy production in their mitochondria was restored and the insects’ ability to fly improved. The researchers determined that the energy production was restored because the Vitamin K2 had improved electron transport in the mitochondria.
Because defective mitochondria are also found in Parkinson’s patients with a PINK1 or Parkin mutation, Vitamin K2 potentially offers hope for a new treatment for Parkinson’s, the researcher concludes.