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Two experimental cancer drugs prevented Parkinson disease–like brain damage and motor dysfunction in mice, according to scientists at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Gerontology Research Center. The drugs work by blocking the action of the protein p53, said Mark Mattson, PhD, chief of the NIA's Laboratory of Neurosciences. Known as the "guardian of the genome," p53 is essential for preventing cancer-causing gene damage. Mutations that inactivate p53 are found in about half of all human cancers. The guardian protein averts malignancies by inducing programmed cell suicide, or apoptosis. While p53 fails in cancer, in Parkinson disease it apparently works too well, triggering the death of healthy dopamine-producing brain cells.
Vastag B. P53 for Parkinson Disease. JAMA. 2002;288(15):1838. doi:10.1001/jama.288.15.1838-JHA20010-3-1