For the first time, Singaporean scientists have been able to create in vitro tiny human brains that mimic the main pathological symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
According to the Science Daily server, this is also the first case of lab-created Lewy bodies — abnormal clusters of proteins in neurons. Thus, researchers have the opportunity to better understand this intractable neurodegenerative disease and its causes.
“Modeling Parkinson’s disease in animals is challenging because there is no gradual and selective loss of neurons that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, a key feature of Parkinson’s disease.Said study co-author Ng Huck Hui of the Singapore Institute of Genetics.
“Another problem is that lab mice do not produce the characteristic clusters of proteins known as Lewy bodies, which often occur in the brain cells of people with Parkinson’s disease, the type of progressive dementia known as Lewy body dementia.Dodal Ng Hak Hoy.
So the science team turned to a small imitation of human brains it had previously created.
A human brain in a test tube
“They are basically a 3D, multicellular tissue that builds in a test tube that mimics the human midbrain (the midbrain),The study’s lead author, Junghyun Jo, explained.
These tiny organelles – laboratory mimics of organs – were grown from human stem cells into a group of neurons and other brain cells.
“For the first time, these trials mimic the hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease that only occurs in human patients,said Hyunsoo Chun Ji from Duke-NUS Medical College in Singapore.
Researchers don’t yet know exactly what causes Parkinson’s disease, but they have nonetheless succeeded in induced it in the lab. This is because they first alter the stem cells’ DNA so that it mimics known genetic risk factors and prerequisites for their appearance. Thus, they were able to grow organoids with Lewy bodies as well as with the selective loss of dopamine-producing neurons.
According to the study’s authors, this discovery not only provides important insights, but also provides a “humanized” model of the disease, in which potential drugs can be tested against Parkinson’s disease and dementia.
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