Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Parkinsonian worms may hold the key to identifying drugs for Parkinson's disease

11.11.2011
Test is based on the difficulty that these parkinsonian C. elegans worms have in switching from swimming to crawling

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.

"We take these motor transitions for granted," says Pierce-Shimomura, "like getting up out of a chair or walking through a doorway from one surface to another. But people with Parkinson's have a terrible time with this. They freeze at the threshold. It looks like we have a very simple worm model for this now."

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!
Further information:
http://www.utexas.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Minimising risks of transplants
22.02.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

nachricht FAU researchers demonstrate that an oxygen sensor in the body reduces inflammation
22.02.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stiffness matters

22.02.2018 | Life Sciences

Magnetic field traces gas and dust swirling around supermassive black hole

22.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

First evidence of surprising ocean warming around Galápagos corals

22.02.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>