The Centrality of Mitochondria in the Pathogenesis and Treatment of Parkinson's Disease



Parkinson's disease (PD) is an incurable neurodegenerative disorder leading to progressive motor impairment and for which there is no cure. From the first postmortem account describing a lack of mitochondrial complex I in the substantia nigra of PD sufferers, the direct association between mitochondrial dysfunction and death of dopaminergic neurons has ever since been consistently corroborated. In this review, we outline common pathways shared by both sporadic and familial PD that remarkably and consistently converge at the level of mitochondrial integrity. Furthermore, such knowledge has incontrovertibly established mitochondria as a valid therapeutic target in neurodegeneration. We discuss several mitochondria-directed therapies that promote the preservation, rescue, or restoration of dopaminergic neurons and which have been identified in the laboratory and in preclinical studies. Some of these have progressed to clinical trials, albeit the identification of an unequivocal disease-modifying neurotherapeutic is still elusive. The challenge is therefore to improve further, not least by more research on the molecular mechanisms and pathophysiological consequences of mitochondrial dysfunction in PD.