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9th April 2024 Latest News Parkinson’s

Adelaide’s role in advancing Parkinson’s research

Cedric Bardy brain

New insights into Parkinson’s disease may have been unlocked after researchers were able to recreate the human brain’s dopaminergic system in a petri dish for the first time.

Within a larger project trialing spider venom as a treatment for Parkinson’s, a team of experts based in Adelaide, led by SAHMRI and Flinders University Associate Professor Cedric Bardy, worked alongside colleagues in Austria to develop the replica in a laboratory setting.

While sections of the brain have previously been cultured and different sections successfully fused together, an integrated system has not been previously available.

But experts from Austria’s Institute of Molecular Biotechnology were able to cultivate three different sections of the brain – the midbrain, striatum and cortical.

Within the midbrain, the substantia nigra region delivers dopamine to the striatum, which starts a chain of reactions that controls motor function.

When neurons in the midbrain die, it prevents dopamine from reaching the striatum, triggering the tremors associated with Parkinson’s.

Understanding what causes this cell death has been understudied, in part because of a lack of access to an appropriate model.

After the development of the model, A/Prof Bardy and his team validated it through rigorous testing.

This has paved the way for the use of the model to test cell transplantation for potential Parkinson’s disease treatment.

A/Prof Bardy has been researching the use of venom-derived molecules to prevent the decline of neurons in laboratory manufactured brain cells, which was jointly funded by The Hospital Research Foundation Group – Parkinson’s, Shake It Up Australia Foundation and the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

The idea is to prevent overload of electrical activity occurring in patient’s neurons to rescue energy levels, protect further neuronal losses and halt the progression of the disease.

“We can leverage this innovative approach, modelling the human dopaminergic system, to evaluate treatments that can restore the imbalance in electrical activity in Parkinson’s disease,” A/Prof Bardy said.

The study is expected to be completed by the end of the year and we look forward to telling you more about the findings of this important piece of research.