Anti-Wrinkle Cream Might Be the Key to Treating Parkinson's Disease

Illustration for article titled Anti-Wrinkle Cream Might Be the Key to Treating Parkinson's Disease

A new study suggests that kinetin, a chemical frequently used in anti-aging creams, could be used to develop a treatment for Parkinson's Disease. Forget regenerating your youthful skin—this chemical could be used to reverse the cell-death that causes, the deadly disorder which afflicts more than a half-million people in the United States.


According to the study published Cell, researchers used kinetin to boost the activity of an enzyme called PINK1. This enzyme has been linked to brain cell death in patients with early-onset Parkinson's, and specifically, with the disorder's hallmark symptoms.

To simplify things a bit, overwhelming evidence shows that Parkinson's is at least partially caused by a mutation in PINK1, which causes the enzyme to malfunction. This malfunction, in turn, affects the cell's mitochondria, organelles which turn the energy you eat into the energy that powers your cells. From there everything goes to hell, according to UCSF, which had a scientist on the study:

In Parkinson’s disease, poorly performing mitochondria have been associated with the death of dopamine-producing nerve cells in a region of the brain called the substantia nigra, which plays a major role in control of movement. Loss of these cells is a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease and the cause of prominent symptoms including rigidity and tremor.

The study was the first to show that kinetin could be used to boost PINK1 activity to near-normal levels. To keep an EXTREMELY long explanation short, kinetin (In a slightly different form) can be used as replacement for one of the chemicals PINK1 usually works with. If you go back to your high-school biology, you'll remember that enzymes are molecules, which serve as catalysts for chemical reactions inside cells. kinetin can speed up the process, so that a cell with mutated enzymes can actually work at normal levels. (We can go into more detail in the Kinja below, if you like. I'd love to hear from some biologists!)

That's all that's all a mouthful, but what's important is that scientists have figured out how to make one of the enzymes that breaks and causes Parkinson's Disease work like it should. This is isn't a treatment yet, but it certainly is an encouraging first step firmly planted on solid science. [Cell via UCSF]

Image: Sebastian Kaulitzki / Shutterstock


Mario Aguilar

The rest of the science for those interested:

It turns out that PINK1 actually works with another chemical, ATP, and in concert, the two molecules activate yet another enzyme, Parkin. The two enzymes (which are from a class of enzymes called Kinases) are like doctors, which make sure the mitochondria in cells are healthy.

Both of these enzymes are among a small number that previously have been strongly linked to Parkinson’s disease. PINK1 and Parkin act together to monitor the health of mitochondria, and help trigger repair or disposal of damaged mitochondria within the cells, thereby promoting cell survival.

So basically, if PINK1 isn't healthy, everything falls apart.

That's where our anti-aging chemical, kinetin comes in. In cells, kinetin gets converted to a chemical called KTP, which is basically a bigger stronger ATP. Other chemicals can be used to juice reactions, but KTP is the first that "fits" with PINK1.

—I'm pretty sure that's all right.