Australian plant scientists on Friday said they have discovered a new molecular mechanism in genes, a finding that could help develop the treatment of a major genetic disorder that damages the human nervous system.
The disorder, or Friedreich's ataxia, is the most commonly inherited genetic condition of its kind affecting young adults for which there is currently no cure and occurs due to a type of DNA mutation referred to as "triplet repeat expansion," according to a statement from Monash University explaining its researchers' work on Friday.
Using an Arabidopsis thaliana plant model, the researchers highlighted at least 11 different genes that could potentially be used to target the negative impacts of the mutation, said research fellow Sridevi Sureshkumar.
"Our findings have opened up unprecedented opportunities with immense potential for human genetic diseases," said the study's leader, associate professor Sureshkumar Balasubramanian, from the university's School of Biological Sciences. The findings were published in the scientific journal of Cell.
"This research has major implications for our understanding of how the genetic mutation that underlies Friedreich ataxia, leads to damage of the nervous system and thus symptoms of this condition," said Professor Martin Delatycki, a clinician and researcher from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute who has studied Friedreich ataxia for more than 20 years.
Plant biologist Professor Detlef Weigel, from the Max Planck Institute in Germany, described the work as "an impressive example of the potential of basic plant research."
"This was possible because experiments can be conducted in plants that are simply not possible in humans," said Weigel.