Parkinson’s Disease Research at NYSCF

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About Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, progressive, neurodegenerative disorder that affects over one million Americans and ten million people worldwide, including over 1% of people over the age of 60.

The disease stems from dysfunction and deterioration of brain cells, mainly dopamine-producing neurons. The main motor symptoms of Parkinson’s are tremors, rigidity, slowness of movement, and impaired balance or coordination. Non-motor symptoms can also have a major impact on quality of life. These may include anxiety, depression, cognitive symptoms, low blood pressure with standing, constipation, pain, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

While decades of research have begun to reveal genetic and biological factors that may contribute to Parkinson’s disease, the precise mechanisms have remained elusive, and there are no disease-modifying therapies available for patients.

Parkinson’s Disease Research at NYSCF

At NYSCF, we are studying the actual human cells impacted by Parkinson’s and developing novel treatments. We are doing this in several steps: 

  1. At the NYSCF Research Institute, we are using our own, powerful robotic system for creating patient stem cells. Our NYSCF Global Stem Cell ArrayTM can rapidly, cleanly, and reproducibly create stem cells from skin or blood, and then reprogram them to become the brain cells implicated in Parkinson’s.
  2. These patient-specific brain cells allow us to investigate the molecular and cellular causes of Parkinson’s as it develops so that we may see the actual decline and failure of diseased cells.
  3. We can also use these cells to test drugs, essentially running a “clinical trial in a dish” to identify the safest and most promising compounds.

We are also expanding our team to scale up our research capabilities and accelerate our search for cures.

Parkinson’s Disease Stem Cell News

Publications

Below are select publications on recent advancements in Parkinson’s research by NYSCF Research Institute scientists.

Directed Differentiation of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells to Microglia.
Douvaras P, Sun B, Wang M, Kruglikov I, Lallos G, Zimmer M, Terrenoire C, Zhang B, Gandy S, Schadt E, Freytes DO, Noggle S, Fossati V.
Stem Cell Reports. 2017. doi: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2017.04.023.

In this study, NYSCF researchers developed a protocol for turning stem cells into microglia (the immune cells of the brain). Microglia have recently been implicated in PD, and having an effective method to generate them will allow scientists to elucidate their precise role in the disease.

iPSC-Derived Dopamine Neurons Reveal Differences between Monozygotic Twins Discordant for Parkinson’s Disease.
Woodard CM, Campos BA, Kuo SH, Nirenberg MJ, Nestor MW, Zimmer M, Mosharov EV, Sulzer D, Zhou H, Paull D, Clark L, Schadt EE, Sardi SP, Rubin L, Eggan K, Brock M, Lipnick S, Rao M, Chang S, Li A, Noggle SA.
Cell Reports. 2014. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.10.023.

In this study, NYSCF scientists derived stem cells and then dopamine neurons from a genetically identical set of twins (one with Parkinson’s disease and one without). This revealed unexpected molecular differences between the twins’ cell lines that indicate which genetic and environmental factors may trigger Parkinson’s onset.