Tagged: lysosome

Making a strong case for GCase

 

Novel therapies are increasing being developed to focus on specific subtypes of Parkinson’s. The hope is that if they work on one type of Parkinson’s, then maybe they will also work on others.

Many of these new experimental treatments are focused on specific genetic subtypes of the condition, which involve having a specific genetic variation that increases one’s risk of developing Parkinson’s.

Increasing amounts of data, however, are accumulating that some of the biological pathways affected by these genetic variations, are also dysfunctional in people with sporadic (or idiopathic) Parkinson’s – where a genetic variation can not explain the abnormality.

In today’s post, we will review some new research that reports reductions in a specific Parkinson’s-associated biological pathway, and discuss what it could mean for future treatment of the Parkinson’s.

 


Source: Medium

I was recently at a conference on Parkinson’s research where a prominent scientist reminded the audience that just because a person with Parkinson’s carries certain genetic risk factor (an error in a region of their DNA that increases their risk of developing Parkinson’s), does not mean that their Parkinson’s is attributable that genetic variation. Indeed, lots of people in the general population carry Parkinson’s associated genetic risk factors, but never go on to develop the condition.

And this is a really important idea for the Parkinson’s community to understand: Most of the genetics of Parkinson’s deals with ‘association’, not with ‘causation’.

But that begs the question ‘if we do not know that these errors in our DNA are causing Parkinson’s, then why should we be trying to develop therapies based on their biology?’

It is a fair question (it is also a very deep and probing question to start a post off with!).

The genetics of Parkinson’s has been extremely instructive in providing us with insights into the potential underlying biology of the condition. We have learnt a great deal about what many of the biological processess thatare associated with these genetic risk factors, and (yes) various experimental therapies have been developed to target them.

These novel treatments are clinically tested in the hope that they will have beneficial effects not just on individuals carrying certain genetic risk factors, but also on the wider Parkinson’s community.

And recently, there has been increasing evidence supporting this possibility. Some of the biological pathways associated with these genetic mutations appear to also be abnormal in people with Parkinson’s who do not carry the genetic variation.

What do you mean?

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Say it with me: Farn-e-syl-trans-fer-ase

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Not a week goes by without some new peice of research suggesting yet another biological mechanism that could be useful in slowing or stopping Parkinson’s. This week researchers in Chicago reported that pharmacologically inhibiting a specific enzyme – farnesyltransferase – may represent a novel means of boosting waste disposal and helping stressed cells to survive.

A number of farnesyltransferase inhibitors are being developed for cancer, and there is the possibility of repurposing some of them for Parkinson’s.

In today’s post, we will discuss what farnesyltransferase is and does, what the new research report found, and we will consider whether inhibition of this biological pathway is do-able for Parkinson’s.

 


Source: Knowledgepathinc

I am in the midst of preparing the “end of year review” and “road ahead” posts for 2019/2020 (they take a while to pull together). But it is already extremely apparent that we have an incredible amount of preclinical data piling up,…. and a serious bottleneck at the transition to clinical testing.

It is actually rather disturbing.

Previously this was a concern, but going forward – as more and more novel preclinical work continues to pile up – one can foresee that it is going to be a serious problem.

But there is just SOOOO much preclinical data on Parkinson’s coming out at the moment. Every single week, there is a new method/molecular pathway proposed for attacking the condition.

A good example of this frenetic pace of preclinical research is a recent report from researchers in Chicago, who discovered that a farnesyltransferase inhibitor could be beneficial in Parkinson’s.

Farne…syl… what?

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A fine time for Felodipine?

 

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have published an interesting research report last week regarding a clinically available drug that they suggest boosts autophagy in the brain.

Autophagy is one of several processes that cells use to dispose of waste and old proteins.

The drug is called Felodipine, and it is a calcium channel blocker that is used to treat high blood pressure.

In today’s post, we will look at what autophagy is, how boosting it could help with neurodegenerative conditions, and whether Felodipine should be clinically tested for re-purposing to Parkinson’s.

 


Source: Novusbio

This is Prof David Rubinsztein (blue shirt) and the members of his research lab at the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research (CIMR) in Cambridge (UK).

Prof Rubinsztein is the Deputy Director of the CIMR, the Academic Lead of the UK Alzheimer’s Research UK Cambridge Drug Discovery Institute, and he is a group leader at the UK Dementia Research Institute at the University of Cambridge.

He is also one of the world’s leading experts in the field of autophagy in neurodegenerative conditions.

What is autophagy?

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A focus on GBA-Parkinson’s

 

 

 

This week the ‘Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research’ and ‘The Silverstein Foundation for Parkinson’s with GBA’ announced that they are collaboratively awarding nearly US$3 million in research grants to fund studies investigating an enzyme called beta glucocerebrosidase (or GCase).

Why is this enzyme important to Parkinson’s?

In today’s post, we will discuss what GCase does, how it is associated with Parkinson’s, and review what some of these projects will be exploring.

 


Source: DenisonMag

This is Jonathan Silverstein.

He is a General Partner of Global Private Equity at OrbiMed – the world’s largest fully dedicated healthcare fund manager. During his time at OrbiMed, the company has invested in healthcare companies that have been involved with over 60 FDA approved products.

In February 2017 – at just 49 years of age – Jonathan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

Rather than simply accepting this diagnosis, however, Mr Silverstein decided to apply the skills that he has built over a long and successful career in funding biotech technology, and in March 2017, he and his wife, Natalie, set up the Silverstein Foundation for Parkinson’s with GBA.

The foundation has just one mission: “to actively pursue and invest in cutting edge research with the goal of discovering new therapies for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease in GBA mutation carriers

And it seeks to address this by achieving three goals:

  1. to find a way to halt the progression of Parkinson’s with GBA.
  2. to identify regenerative approaches to replace the damaged/lost cells
  3. to find preventative measures

This week, the Silverstein foundation and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research made a big anoouncement.

The two organisations announced nearly US$3 million in grants to fund studies investigating an enzyme called glucocerebrosidase beta acid (or GCase).

And what exactly is glucocerebrosidase?

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Two birds, one stone?

This week interesting research was published in the journal EMBO that looked at the Parkinson’s-associated protein Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (or LRRK2).

In their study, the researchers discovered that lowering levels of LRRK2 protein (in cells and animals) affected the ability of Mycobacterium tuberculosis – the bacteria that causes Tuberculosis – to replicate.

In today’s post, we will discuss what Tuberculosis is, how it relates to LRRK2 and Parkinson’s, and we will consider why this is potentially REALLY big news for Parkinson’s.


Daedalus and Icarus. Source: Skytamer

In Greek Mythology, there is the tale of Daedalus and Icarus.

Daedalus was a really smart guy, who designed the labyrinth on Crete, which housed the Minotaur (the ‘part man, part bull’ beast). For all his hard work, however, Daedalus was shut up in a tower and held captive by King Minos to stop the knowledge of his Labyrinth from spreading to the general public.

Source: Clansofhonor

But a mere tower was never going to stop Daedalus, and he set about fabricating wings for himself and his young son Icarus (who was also a captive).

Being stuck in the tower limited Daedalus’ access to feathers for making those wings, except of course for the large birds of prey that circled the tower awaiting the demise of Daedalus and his son. But he devised a clever way of throwing stones at the birds in such a way, that he is able to strike one bird and then the ricochet would hit a second bird.

And thus, the phase ‘killing two birds with one stone’ was born (or so it is said – there is also a Chinese origin for the phrase – Source).

Interesting. And this relates to Parkinson’s how?!?

Well, this week researchers in the UK have discovered that a protein associated with Parkinson’s is apparently also associated with another condition: Tuberculosis. And they also found that treatments being designed to target this protein in Parkinson’s, could also be used to fight Tuberculosis.

Two birds, one stone.

What is Tuberculosis?

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DUBstop: Oxford-style

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This week multiple research groups at the University of Oxford and Boston-based FORMA Therapeutics announced a collaboration to identify, validate and develop deubiquitinating enzyme (DUB) inhibitors for the treatment of neurodegenerative conditions, like Parkinson’s.

But what exactly are DUB inhibitors? And how do they work?

In today’s post, we will answer these questions, look at what the new collaboration involves, and look at what else is happening with DUB inhibitors for Parkinson’s.


dubstep_color_and_white_by_dtfproductions-d3admfb

Source: Blog4dubstep

Dubstep is a genre of electronic dance music that originated in South London in the late 1990s. Only recently -in the 2010s – has the culture really become more mainstream. And while I have a hard time appreciating the heavy bass music (man, I am becoming a grumpy old man before my time), it is amazing to watch some of the dancers who robotically embody this form of music:

The guy on the right is named Marquese Scott. Sometimes he simply defies the laws of physics.

The title of today’s post is a play on words, because rather than doing ‘Dubstep’ we are going to be discussing how to ‘DUB-stop’.

Researchers in Oxford have recently signed an agreement with a US company to focus resources and attention on a new approach for tackling neurodegenerative conditions, including Parkinson’s.

What they are proposing is a complicated biological dance.

Their idea: to stop deubiquitinating (DUB) enzymes.

What are deubiquitinating enzymes?

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Something is interesting in the state of Denmark

 

 

Gaucher disease is a genetic disorder caused by the reduced activity of an enzyme, glucocerebrosidase. This enzyme is produced by a region of DNA (or a gene) called GBA – the same GBA gene associated with a particular form of Parkinson’s.

Recently, a Danish company has been testing a new drug that could benefit people with Gaucher disease.

It is only natural to ask the question: Could this drug also benefit GBA-associated Parkinson’s?

In today’s post, we will discuss what Gaucher disease is, how this experimental drug works, and why it would be interesting to test it in Parkinson’s.


Will Shakespeare. Source: Ppolskieradio

The title of this post is a play on words from one of the many famous lines of William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet.

The original line – delivered by Marcellus (a Danish army sentinel) after the ghost of the dead king appears – reads: If the authorities knew about the problems and chose not to prevent them, then clearly something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

(Act 1, Scene 4)

The title of this post, however, is: Something is interesting in the state of Denmark

This slight change was made because certain Danish authorities know about the problem and they are trying to prevent it. The ‘authorities’ in this situation are some research scientists at a biotech company in Denmark, called Orphazyme.

And the problem is Parkinson’s?

No, the problem is Gaucher disease.

Huh? What is Gaucher disease?

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Happy birthday: Silverstein Foundation

Over the last 12 months, the Silverstein Foundation has quickly established itself as a major focused force in the fight against Parkinson’s.

And when I say ‘focused’, I mean ‘focused’ –  the foundation is “actively pursues and invests in cutting edge research with the goal of discovering new therapies for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease in glucocerebrosidase (GBA) mutation carriers”.

But the output of this effort may well have major benefits for the entire Parkinson’s community.

In today’s post, we will discuss what GBA is, how it functions inside cells, its association with Parkinson’s, and what all of this GBA focused research being funded by the Silverstein Foundation could mean for the Parkinson’s community.


Jonathan Silverstein. Source: Forbes

This is Jonathan Silverstein.

He’s a dude.

He is also a General Partner and a Co-Head of Global Private Equity at OrbiMed – the world’s largest fully dedicated healthcare fund manager. During his time at OrbiMed, the company has invested in healthcare companies that have been involved with over 60 FDA approved products.

In February 2017, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at just 49 years of age.

Rather than simply accepting this diagnosis, however, Mr Silverstein decided to apply the skills that he has built over a long and successful career in funding biotech technology, and in March 2017, he and his wife, Natalie, set up the Silverstein Foundation.

They raised $6 million from donors and then provided another $10 million of their own money to fund the endeavour, which has funded a dozen research projects and started a new company called Prevail Therapeutics (we’ll come back to this shortly).

Source: Businesswire

The foundation has just one mission: “to actively pursue and invest in cutting edge research with the goal of discovering new therapies for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease in GBA mutation carriers”

And it seeks to address this by achieving three goals:

  1. to find a way to halt the progression of Parkinson’s with GBA.
  2. to identify regenerative approaches to replace the damaged/lost cells
  3. to find preventative measures

What is ‘GBA’?

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Mickey becomes more human?

For a long time researchers have lacked truly disease-relevant models of Parkinson’s.

We have loaded cells with toxins to cause cell death, we have loaded cells with mutant proteins to cause cell death, we have loaded cells with… well, you get the idea. Long story short though, we have never had proper models of Parkinson’s – that is a model which present all of the cardinal features of the condition (Lewy bodies, cell loss, and motor impairment).

The various models we have available have provided us with a wealth of knowledge about the biology of how cells die and how we can protect them, which has led to numerous experimental drugs being tested in the clinic. But there has always been a linger question of ‘how disease-relevant are these models?’

This situation may be about to change.

In today’s post we will look at new research in which Japanese researchers have genetically engineered mice in which they observed the generation of Lewy bodies, the loss of dopamine neurons and motor impairments. We will look at how these mice have been generated, and what it may tell us about Parkinson’s.


Walt Disney. Source: PBS

Ok, before we start today’s post: Five interesting facts about the animator Walt Disney (1901 – 1966):

  • Disney dropped out of high school at age 16 with the goal of joining the Army to help out in the war effort. He was rejected for being underage, but was able to get a job as an ambulance driver with the Red Cross in France.
  • From 1928 (the birth of Mickey Mouse) until 1947, Disney himself performed the voice of Mickey.
  • Mickey Mouse was originally named “Mortimer Mouse”, but it was Disney’s wife who suggested that the name Mortimer sounded too pompous (seriously, can you imagine a world with the “Mortimer Mouse show”?). She convinced Disney to change the name to Mickey (the name Mortimer was later given to one of Mickey’s rivals).
  • To this day, Disney holds the record for the most individual Academy Awards and nominations. Between 1932 and 1969, he won 22 Academy Awards and was nominated 59 times (Source).
  • And best of all: On his deathbed as he lay dying from lung cancer, Disney wrote the name “Kurt Russell” on a piece of paper. They were in effect his ‘last words’. But no one knows what they mean. Even Kurt is a bit perplexed by it all. He (along with many others) was a child actor contracted to the Disney company at the time, but why did Walt write Russell’s name as opposed to something more deep and meaningful (no disrespect intended towards Mr Russell).

Actor Kurt Russell. Source: Fxguide

When asked why he thought his great creation “Mickey mouse” was so popular, Walt Disney responded that “When people laugh at Mickey Mouse, it’s because he’s so human; and that is the secret of his popularity”.

Mickey Mouse. Source: Ohmy.Disney

This is a curious statement.

Curious because in biomedical research, mice are used in experiments to better understand the molecular pathways underlying basic biology and for the testing of novel therapeutics, and yet they are so NOT human.

There are major biological differences between us and them.

Not human. Source: USNews

It has been a major dilemma for the research community for some time with regards to translating novel therapies to humans, and it raises obvious ethical questions of whether we should be using mice at all for the basic research if they are so different from us. This problem is particularly apparent in the field of immunology, where the differences between ‘mice and men’ is so vast in some cases that researcher have called for moving away from mice entirely and focusing on solely human models (Click here and here for a good reads on this topic).

What does this have to do with Parkinson’s?

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FASN-ating PINK research

Pink

In 2018, there is one particular clinical trial that I will be watching, because the drug being tested could have a big impact on certain kinds of Parkinson’s.

The clinical trial is focused on people with cancer and they will be treated with a drug called TVB-2640TVB-2640 is an inhibitor of an enzyme called fatty acid synthase (or FAS). 

In today’s post we will discuss why TVB-2640 might be a useful treatment for certain kinds of Parkinson’s.


Mitochondria

Mitochondria and their location in the cell. Source: NCBI

 

Regular readers of this blog are probably getting sick of the picture above.

I use it regularly on this website, because a.) it nicely displays a basic schematic of a mitochondrion (singular), and where mitochondria (plural) reside inside a cell. And b.) a lot of evidence is pointing towards mitochondrial dysfunction in Parkinson’s.

What are mitochondria?

Mitochondria are the power stations of each cell. They help to keep the lights on. Without them, the party is over and the cell dies.

How do they supply the cell with energy?

They convert nutrients from food into Adenosine Triphosphate (or ATP). ATP is the fuel which cells run on. Given their critical role in energy supply, mitochondria are plentiful (some cells have thousands) and highly organised within the cell, being moved around to wherever they are needed.

Source: Mangomannutrition

What does this have to do with Parkinson’s?

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