Researchers at Cambridge University published a new report this week that extends on a very interesting line of Parkinson’s research. The studies focus on a compound (and derivatives of that compound) that has been derived from the dogfish shark.
The protein – called Squalamine – has an amazing ability to prevent the Parkinson’s-associated protein alpha synuclein from clustering (or aggregating) together. The aggregation of alpha synuclein is considered to be a key component of the biology underlying Parkinson’s, and thus any compound that block/reduce this aggregation is viewed with therapeutic applications in mind.
Unfortunately there is a problem with squalamine: it does not cross the blood brain barrier (the protective membrane surrounding the brain).
But a derivative of squalamine – called Trodusquemine – does!
In today’s post, we will look at what Squalamine and Trodusquemine are, we will review the new research, and look at current clinical research efforts involving these compounds.
The effects of aggregated Alpha Synuclein protein in a neuron. Source: R&D
We often talk about one particular protein on this website. It is called alpha synuclein. It is one of the most common proteins in the human brain, and it appears to be centrally involved with Parkinson’s.
In the Parkinsonian brain, alpha synuclein clumps (or aggregates) together, which is believed to lead to the appearance of Lewy bodies.
What are Lewy bodies?
There has been a lot of discussion on this site (and elsewhere on the web) regarding the need for more objective systems of measuring Parkinson’s – particularly in the setting of clinical trials.
Yes, subjective reports of patient experience are important, but they can easily be biased by ‘placebo responses’.
Thus, measures that are beyond the clinical trial participants conscious control – and focused on biological outcomes – are needed.
In today’s post, we will consider one possible approach: Smart pills. We will discuss what they are, how they work, and how they could be applied to Parkinson’s research.
In order to encourage a growing discussion regarding objective measures of Parkinson’s (and to follow up on previous rants – Click here and here for examples), I have decided to regularly (once a month) highlight new technologies that could provide the sort of unbiased methods of data collection that are required for assessing whether a treatment is having an impact on Parkinson’s.
Today, we will look at smart pills.
What is a smart pill?