Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have devised a simple test, using dopamine-deficient worms, for identifying drugs that may help people with Parkinson's disease.
The worms are able to evaluate as many as 1,000 potential drugs a year. The researchers have received federal funding that could increase that to one million drug tests a year.
The test is based on the difficulty that these "parkinsonian" C. elegans worms have in switching from swimming to crawling when they're taken out of water.
"They can crawl fine," says Jon Pierce-Shimomura, assistant professor of neurobiology. "They go into a puddle and can swim fine. But as soon as the puddle goes away they crash. In some cases an individual will remain rigid for about a half hour."Pierce-Shimomura led a team of researchers, including Andres Vidal-Gadea, Stephen Topper and Layla Young, to identify this "motor switching" problem. Their findings were published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
To identify potential therapeutics, Pierce-Shimomura begins with worms that have been mutated to be deficient in producing dopamine. It's the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain that causes Parkinson's disease in humans.
The dopamine-deficient worms are put through the same paces that lead to the immobility, but in the presence of a drug.
If they become immobile as they normally would when water is removed, the researchers move on to the next drug. But if somehow a drug helps the worms' brains overcome the dopamine deficiency and they transition to crawling, the lab has a potential therapeutic.
Pierce-Shimomura says that although humans have a vastly more complex nervous system than the worms, the two species share an "ancient and conserved" genetic structure to their dopaminergic systems. What works to overcome a dopamine deficiency in the worms may do something similar in humans, and it can be tested in worms with extraordinary speed.
Pierce-Shimomura has already begun testing potential drugs for Parkinson's. So far he's found one compound that shows promising effects in the worms. The particular compound has already been approved for use in humans for treatment of another condition.
Working with the university's Office of Technology Commercialization, he's filed a patent application for the worm model for testing of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
About half a million Americans suffer from Parkinson's disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. Early symptoms of the disease include shaking, rigidity, and slowness of movement. As it progresses, the physical symptoms can advance to the point of incapacity, and cognitive impairments, including early dementia, can arise as well.
A huge barrier to preventing or treating diseases such as Parkinson's is the amount of time it takes to identify drugs that work effectively. Typically, drugs are tested on mice — a process that is expensive and requires one to two years for mice to age while testing just a few dozen drugs at a time.
With the help of a few undergraduates Pierce-Shimomura believes that he can test about 1,000 drugs a year. The number could rise to one million a year if the process can be automated.
He recently received a competitive $3 million Transformative Research Projects Award from the National Institutes of Health with mechanical engineering professor Adela Ben-Yakar, to develop just such an automation process for parkinsonian worms as well as worms mutated to have other neurodegenerative diseases, including a C. elegans version of Alzheimer's.
"These worms are so simple to work with, we can do these drug screens at massive scale," says Pierce-Shimomura. "Right now the more hands we have, the more targets we can test."
Daniel Oppenheimer | EurekAlert!
Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg
New potential cancer treatment using microwaves to target deep tumors
12.10.2016 | University of Texas at Arlington
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences