According to the results of the EU-funded REPLACES project, which associates scientists with clinicians, the pattern of brain alterations may be similar in several different neurodegenerative diseases, which may lead to alternative therapeutic strategies to treat these diseases. A news report from Youris.com indicates that the project shed light on the abnormal working of a particular brain circuitry related to Parkinson’s disease. The project focused on the study of a highly plastic brain circuitry, which connects regions of the cerebral cortex with the basal ganglia. Researchers studied the function and plasticity of this circuit in different animal models of Parkinson disease.
The researchers found the exact same alterations were present and conserved, which makes it an alternative target for trying to re-establish the appropriate functioning and reverse the symptoms of the disease. In addition, the research has also shed some light into unrelated diseases. As indicated on the Youris.com news report, the same alterations in the working of the communication systems among neurons are shared among different diseases. The results of the project suggest these same circuits are implicated in different forms of pathologies, which may provide vital insight into the possible common links between neurodegenerative diseases.
Claudia Bagni, PhD, explains, “This is why we speak about ‘synaptopathies’: there are common players among Parkinson’s disease, autism, and other forms of intellectual disabilities and even schizophrenia. Several of the mutated genes are the same, and affect the signalling systems through common molecules.”
Progress is in sight thanks to a much better understanding of the working of the abnormal synapses in Parkinson disease, as indicated on the Youris.com news report. Project researchers hope the door is now open for the first clinical trials in humans, as the prior experiments performed in monkeys showed encouraging results. Monica Di Luca, PhD, project coordinator, says, “We have identified a potential new target for treatment, and tested a couple of molecules in animals, [and the] next step would be to find a partnership with pharmaceutical industries interested in pursuing this research.”