Researchers from the Northwestern University are developing a unique genetic therapy by which they can switch off a gene involved in Parkinson's disease. Martha Bohn and her laboratory team at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine designed this novel therapy, which is described in detail in the January online issue of the journal Experimental Neurology.
The gene therapy evolved by Bohn and her team involves turning off alpha-synuclein from the dopamine-producing neurons that die off in Parkinson's disease. Alpha-synuclein is found in excess amounts in structures called as Lewy bodies, which are the markers for Parkinson's disease. Previous research has highlighted the fact that these proteins are responsible for the development of the disease. Bohn and her team used a technique called "RNA interference" with gene therapy to switch off alpha-synuclein in dopamine neurons. The researchers were able to turn off the protein by injecting RNA interference tool in the brain of lab mice "This is the first step in developing a new therapy for Parkinson's disease based on molecular knowledge of the disease," said Mohan K. Sapru, research assistant professor of pediatrics and a co-inventor of the gene-based technology. "It may also be useful for other diseases of the brain, such as dementia with Lewy bodies, a disease also characterized by Lewy bodies in the brain."
Jonathan W. Yates; Shea Hogan; Lixin Jiang; and Jeremy S. Halter, Feinberg School were the other researchers on this study. It was supported by the Parkinson's Disease Foundation; National Institutes of Health grant NS31957; the State of Illinois Excellence in Academic Medicine Program; and the Medical Research Institute Council of Children's Memorial Hospital.