New insights into Parkinsonism
7 May 2007
Research conducted at the University of Sydney has attracted considerable international attention at the 8th International AD/PD (Alzheimer's/Parkinson's) Conference in Salzburg, Austria. Professor Jürgen Götz, director of the Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease Laboratory at the Brain and Mind Research Institute, and his team are currently using their mouse model to develop therapeutic strategies to treat Parkinson’s disease.
The research presented at the conference adds to Professor Götz's established track record in modelling Alzheimer's disease. Given the significant clinical overlap of related neurodegenerative diseases, it is not surprising that he is also trying to understand the causes of Parkinson's disease.
According to Alzforum, "Jürgen Götz presented the first description of a (mouse) strain that is a surprisingly precise model of early-onset human Parkinsonism." Dr Lars Ittner, one of Professor Götz's team, dissected the clinical features of this novel mouse model and identified the underlying patho-mechanism causing Parkinsonism in the mouse. Between 4 and 6 weeks of age, the mice developed the four classic motor symptoms of Parkinsonism: a resting tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia (i.e., slowness of voluntary movement), and postural instability. Dr Ittner found that the mice also responded to treatment with L-dopa, a drug used to treat Parkinson's patients. By contrast, the dopamine receptor agonist haloperidol weakened them further. Together, the symptoms and the drug response mimic Parkinsonism associated with different types of Frontotemporal dementia, where patients also develop Parkinsonism symptoms early on and initially benefit from L-dopa treatment.
The findings by Professor Götz and his team have been well received. "Other researchers commented that the drug response might help drug developers validate this mouse model pharmacologically, and make it more practicable for drug screening studies than are some of the existing tau lines." (Alzforum).
This research was funded by the Medical Foundation, the New South Wales Government through the Ministry for Science and Medical Research (BioFirst Grant), the Mason Foundation, the NHMRC and the ARC.
Read more about the findings on the Alzforum website and on the Götz laboratory website.