Scripps Parkinson's study points to a key enzyme as a potential drug target

A team of investigators at the Florida branch of Scripps Research Institute says that a little-understood enzyme known as serum glucocorticoid kinase 1 (SGK1) could play a role in preventing or treating Parkinson's disease.

Working with animal models, the scientists observed that SGK1 protected brain cells by blocking some well known pathways for neurodegeneration and deactivating JNK, GSK3β and MKK4 molecules. And because there isn't enough natural SGK1 to prevent Parkinson's, the Scripps team believes this could be a valuable therapeutic strategy for drug developers in the field.

"Even though the levels of naturally occurring SGK1 increases in the cell under stress, it was not enough to promote cell survival in our neurodegeneration model," said Sarah Iqbal, the first author of the study and a member of the LoGrasso lab. "On the other hand, cell survival mechanisms tend to dominate when more SGK1 is added to the neurons."

Parkinson's disease is one of the toughest targets in biotech, posing a difficult challenge for biotechs looking to develop new drugs for the disease.

"The overexpression of SGK1 provides neuron protection in both cell culture and in animal models," said Philip LoGrasso, a TSRI professor who led the study. "It decreases reactive oxygen species generation and alleviates mitochondrial dysfunction."

For now, the team says they plan to continue to study SGK1. Their study was published by the journal Molecular and Cellular Biology.

- here's the release
- read the research abstract