Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects over one million Americans and ten million people worldwide. NYSCF undertakes advanced stem cell research to identify the causes, understand the progression of, and ultimately find a cure for PD.
Chris Fasano, PhD,
2008 NYSCF-Druckenmiller Fellow
Classic PD is idiopathic, meaning that scientists do not have a clear understanding of what causes this disease. Aging is an important risk factor, increasing likelihood of developing PD by 2-4% for individuals over 60. Researchers are currently working to identify biomarkers—a protein or related biological molecule unique to Parkinson’s patients—that can confirm the presence of this disease.
Parkinson’s disease has no cure, and treatments lag behind. Difficult to diagnose in its early stages, tremors, disruptions to balance, and neurological symptoms often can be mistaken for other diseases.
With NYSCF support, scientists have made progress in understanding the causes of and discovering therapeutic candidates for Parkinson's disease.
Learn more about stem cells:
NYSCF Lab Director Dr. Scott Noggle
How can stem cell research help us find better treatments and cures for Parkinson's disease?
Stem cells provide a living window onto Parkinson’s disease. Researchers at the NYSCF Research Institute derive the actual dopaminergic neurons implicated in this disease from Parkinson’s patients’ skin samples. These cells mature, get sick, and die off in a dish as in a patient. We can, for the first time, scrutinize what goes wrong on a cellular level that leads to what goes wrong in a patient.
Dr. Scott Noggle, the Director of the NYSCF Laboratory, leads the Parkinson’s disease team. He, with fellow NYSCF scientists, model Parkinson’s disease in a dish with patient-specific stem cells. Coupled with the medical histories of patients, these cells serve as an incredibly powerful tool to increase our understanding, to uncover treatments, and to find a cure.
Made possible by the NYSCF – Golub Stem Cell Research Initiative for Parkinson’s Disease Research, we are developing a massive collection of representative induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell lines on The NYSCF Global Stem Cell Array (Array). This fully automated Array generates thousands of standardized iPS cells that can be used to study Parkinson’s and, importantly, for drug screens.
NYSCF researchers are making stem cell lines and dopaminergic neurons from hundreds of patients in order to test compounds on a diverse panel of patients’ cells. For the first time, efficacy and potential toxicity will be determined in advance of clinical trials. This will greatly reduce the time and cost to bring a drug to market.