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Friday, September 15, 2017

SAHMRI researchers will tackle Parkinson’s disease by growing brain cells

ADELAIDE scientists will grow live human brain cells in the lab — using skin scrapings which they will convert back to stem cells then reprogram to become brain neurons.
They will then use the live brain cells to compare the differences in neurons between people with Parkinson’s disease and healthy people.

The South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute will use a recent Nobel prize-winning discovery that revealed a method to reprogram patient skin cells into stem cells.
SAHMRI’s acting executive director Professor Steve Nicholls.

Dr Cedric Bardy, from SAHMRI’s Mind and Brain theme, has been awarded funding from Perpetual IMPACT Philanthropy to undertake research to find new potential molecular targets to treat Parkinsons’s disease.
While brain cells have been grown from skin cells previously, Dr Bardy said the plan to tackle Parkinson’s disease was groundbreaking.
“What is unique and world -first about my strategy is to take a multimodal approach to examine the properties of the brain cell culture, by combining functional and genetic analysis,” he said.
Each day, 32 Australians are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and there is no cure. Dr Bardy said current medication only helps mask the symptoms of Parkinson’s temporarily.
“Therapeutics that will stop, or even slow, the debilitating progression of Parkinson’s are desperately needed and will improve the lives of millions of people,” he said.
A major hurdle in researching potential treatments is that access to live neurons from patients to study the disease and screen new drugs is very limited.
Dr Bardy and his team have designed a platform to generate live human neurons, which will allow them to analyse the biological differences between neurons from healthy subjects and Parkinson’s patients.
The project will take skin biopsies from people with the disease, reprogram them into stem cells using state-of-the-art cell biology technologies, then grow them into live brain tissue in a Petri dish.
Dr Bardy said the Perpetual IMPACT support will significantly strengthen preclinical research efforts necessary to lay solid foundations for future successful clinical trials.
“If successful for this Parkinson’s project, our approach may be extended to all kinds of brain disorders,” he said. :Patient-derived neuronal models have the potential to truly revolutionise the way we do medical research.”
SAHMRI’s acting executive director, Professor Steve Nicholls, said support from groups like Perpetual allowed SAHMRI researchers to continue ground breaking research.
“They truly understand the value of health and medical research,” ProfNicholls said.
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