Washington: Researchers have taken a major step in drug research for Parkinson`s disease, by investigating signs of the disease in patient-derived cells and testing how the cells respond to drug treatments.The researchers collected skin cells from patients with genetically inherited forms of Parkinson`s and reprogrammed those cells into neurons. They found that neurons derived from individuals with distinct types of Parkinson`s showed common signs of distress and vulnerability – in particular, abnormalities in the cellular energy factories known as mitochondria.At the same time, the cells` responses to different treatments depended on the type of Parkinson`s each patient had.“These findings suggest new opportunities for clinical trials of Parkinson`s disease, in which cell reprogramming technology could be used to identify the patients most likely to respond to a particular intervention,” said Margaret Sutherland, Ph.D., a program director at NIH`s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).The study was conducted by a consortium of researchers led by Ole Isacson, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of neurology at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston with primary funding from NINDS.The NINDS consortium`s first goal was to transform the patients` skin cells into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which are adult cells that have been reprogrammed to behave like embryonic stem cells. The consortium researchers then used a combination of growth conditions and growth-stimulating molecules to coax these iPS cells into becoming neurons, including the type that die in Parkinson`s disease.Parkinson`s disease affects a number of brain regions, including a motor control area of the brain called the substantia nigra. There, it destroys neurons that produce the chemical dopamine. Loss of these neurons leads to involuntary shaking, slowed movements, muscle stiffness and other symptoms. Medications can help manage the symptoms, but there is no treatment to slow or stop the disease.Most cases of Parkinson`s are sporadic, meaning that the cause is unknown. However, genetics plays a strong role. There are 17 regions of the genome with common variations that affect the risk of developing Parkinson`s disease. Researchers have also identified nine genes that, when mutated, can cause the disease.
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