Science Overview

Rationale for Mitochondria

To slow the progression of aging and age-related diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, we seek to improve mitochondrial quality control, a mechanism that declines with age, through enhancing the removal of damaged mitochondria by modulating mitochondrial quality control mechanisms such as Mitophagy.

Improved mitochondrial quality control restores efficient energy production, and helps return the cell to its normal state of homeostasis.

Multiple genetic mutations in mitochondrial pathways cause genetic forms of Parkinson’s disease and damaged mitochondria accumulate in idiopathic Parkinson's disease. Our hypothesis is that increasing mitophagy to recycle these damaged mitochondria will increase the number of healthy mitochondria and can counteract this key deficit in Parkinson’s disease brains.

View our video explaining mitophagy on YouTube.

Rationale for Top Targets

Parkin is an enzyme in cells that tags outer membrane proteins on damaged mitochondria and thereby sets off repair or recycling of the damaged mitochondria. Mutations in the parkin gene which make it dysfunctional cause Parkinson’s disease in humans, suggesting this enzyme is key for keeping susceptible cells healthy. Accordingly, increasing levels of parkin protects against models of disease in several animal species, from fruit fly and worm to non-human primates and human cells.

To maintain homeostasis, there are always opposing forces in living cells. An opposing enzyme to parkin is USP30, which removes the tags attached by parkin and slows the repair and recycling mechanisms. In fruit flies, decreasing USP30 can offer protection against mitochondrial dysfunction.

We look to translate these breakthrough discoveries to human medicines by activating parkin or inhibiting USP30 using small molecules.

View large image.

Diagram of mitophagy and how Parkin and USP30 work to balance clearance mechanisms.