Pinning down the proteins of Parkinson’s disease

Pinning down the proteins of Parkinson’s disease

By 01/10/2017 No Comments

Pinning down the proteins of Parkinson’s disease

SUPERVISOR: Dr Luigi De Girolamo – Nottingham Trent University
STUDENT: Miss Lauren Richardson

Replacing primates and rodents by studying Parkinson’s proteins

Lauren, supervised by Dr Luigi De Girolamo at Nottingham Trent University, used an advanced human-cell model to identify a ‘biological fingerprint’ of Parkinson’s disease, which could be used to test the potential of new treatments.

Lauren mimicked the Parkinson’s disease process in a human-cell model to assess the biological factors (proteins) that are linked to the death of brain cells in a patient with Parkinson’s disease. Her work identified that you can directly replace the use of animal derived biomaterials traditionally used for this purpose with animal free materials.

The results of her work could help identify individuals at risk of Parkinson’s disease, be used to monitor disease progression and see how the disease responds to new treatments, all without using animals.

“The Summer Studentship Scheme gave me a taste for research and greatly improved my confidence! I was able to learn and improve a range of skills, and it was nice to feel that the work I was doing was supporting a good cause.” – Lauren Richardson

The Science behind the studentship

Protein profiling of secreted proteins in response to stressors leading to neural degeneration of relevance to Parkinson’s Disease

Lauren Richardson Parkinson rodent primate protein degeneration summer student cell

Animal Free Research UK summer student, Lauren Richardson, preparing separation gels that helped her identify proteins linked to Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a complex and debilitating disorder that affects more than 127,000 people in the UK. It is a consequence of the progressive death of specific brain cells within the brain region that controls movement. What causes these brain cells to die is not known but is linked to the impairment of a number of biological processes. Unfortunately, to improve the understanding of these processes investigators use animal experimentation to recreate the biological impairment in the brain and test the potential of new drugs to alleviate the disease.

Currently, PD is diagnosed by clinical criteria and is only confirmed after a patient‘s death. Medical improvements could be achieved by identifying biological factors (proteins) that allow the identification of individuals at risk, the monitoring of disease progression and the response to drug treatment. The use of a human cell model that mimics the cells lost in PD would provide a platform to investigate the disease process and new drug compounds reducing the need for animals. We propose to use human cell models and chemical inhibitors to recreate the biological impairments that are known to be altered in PD brains to mimic the disease process. By collecting the proteins that are secreted by these degenerating cells and applying a powerful analytical approach, we will identify target proteins that represent a “biological fingerprint” of the disease. A comparison of the biological fingerprints with those identified from patient samples will provide a valuable tool to assess the effectiveness of new drug compounds.

Historically, a number of animal models (namely rodents and non-human primates) have been used to investigate mechanism of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and neuroprotective strategies. The former are generally based on either genetic mutation of PD-related genes whilst the latter involve the induction of PD-like symptoms by exposure to chemical inhibitors. However, these models have significant limitations including the absence of specific clinical features, differences in pathology of specific brain areas, the absence of specific cell pathology and none faithfully recreate the complex chronic neurodegenerative timeframe of human PD (1).

REFERENCES: (1) Blesa J, Przedborski S. (2014). Parkinson’s disease: animal models and dopaminergic cell vulnerability. Frontiers in Neuroanatomy 155: 1-12; (2) Duty S, Jenner P. (2011) Animal models of Parkinson’s disease: a source of novel treatments and clues to the cause of the disease. British Journal of Pharmacology. 164(4):1357-1391.; (3) Sowell RA, Owen JB, Butterfield DA (2009). Proteomics in animal models of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Ageing Res Rev. 8(1):1-17.

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