Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine made a surprising discovery recently that may lead to advancements in treating both Parkinson’s disease and cancer.

The News and Observer reported Wednesday that a study published July 15 in the Science Signaling journal concludes that the protein known as PARC is used by both cancer cells and neurons to prevent cell death.

Vivian Gama, a postdoctoral fellow, led the experiments, which found that the PARC protein that helps neurons survive in times of stress also allow cancer cells to survive.

But now, researchers plan to investigate targeting PARC in cancer treatments.

Researchers also found a similarity between PARC and Parkin, a protein that is changed by Parkinson’s disease.

They say they plan to study how these two proteins may work together in protecting neurons that are damaged in patients with Parkinson’s.

UNC Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology Mohanish Deshmukh runs the UNC lab where the experiments were conducted, and he is the senior author of the study.

He told The News and Observer that the connection between the PARC protein and Parkin was not something that researchers in his lab had been expecting to find.