Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by the loss of dopaminergic neurons, a process involving motor manifestations such as tremors, rigidity, slow movements, and postural instability. Although in many cases the cause of the disease is still unknown, mutations in the LRRK2 gene are responsible for 5% of the cases.
Current therapies against Parkinson’s are focused on alleviating the symptoms of the disease but they do not stop its progression. Professionals think about early interventions –before the first symptoms appear– that stop neuronal loss could slow down or even stop the evolution of the disease. However, the diagnosis is based on the appearance of symptoms, that is, when 70% of the neurons are already lost. A team of the UB and IDIBELL identified early functional deficiencies –prior to the neuronal loss– in neurons derived from patients with genetic Parkinson’s.
The study, published in the journal npj Parkinson’s Disease, is led by Antonella Consiglio, researcher at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of the University of Barcelona, the Institute of Biomedicine of the UB (IBUB) and the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL); Àngel Raya, coordinator of the program on Regenerative Medicine at IDIBELL and ICREA researcher, and Jordi Soriano, lecturer at the Faculty of Physics and member of the Institute of Complex Systems (UBICS) of the UB.
According to the lecturer Antonella Consiglio, head of the research group at IDIBELL and ICREA Academia researcher, “these findings shed light on an early diagnosis, which enables us to make a premature intervention to stop neuronal loss, and therefore, to stop the evolution of the disease”.
In the study, carried out in collaboration with other national and international institutions, researchers used dopaminergic neurons –the most vulnerable in Parkinson’s– as a model, differenced from stem cells (iPSC) of healthy individuals and patients with genetic Parkinson’s. According to the conclusions, these dopaminergic neurons are able to mature and form functional neuronal networks in culture under control conditions and in the case of Parkinson’s disease.