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UVA researchers make cellular model of Parkinson's disease

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Feb. 12 For the first time, scientists at the University of Virginia Health System have engineered cells that produce the pathological hallmark found in the brain cells of all patients with Parkinson's disease Lewy bodies, tiny balls of damaged protein, found only in the brain and discovered more than ninety years ago.

The U.Va. research on Lewy bodies means that scientists now have a model of the pathological changes found in Parkinson's disease "in a dish" and can use this cellular model for experiments that may show promise in treating or reversing the effects of Parkinson's. The research is published in the February 2004 issue of the Journal of Neurochemistry, which can be accessed on the web at: http://www.jneurochem.org/current.shtml.

"The best way we can study Parkinson's is through a model that replicates the pathological features of the disease," said Patricia Trimmer, lead author of the study and associate professor of research at U.Va.'s Department of Neurology. "Previously, the only way we could study Lewy bodies was in brain samples from patients with advanced Parkinson's disease who had died. This cell culture system provides us with a living pathological model, a new tool."

Symptoms of Parkinson's disease include tremors, rigidity, slowing of movement and difficulty with posture and balance. The disease is caused by the degeneration of nerve cells in a part of the brain, called the substantia nigra, responsible for the production of dopamine, which is essential for nerve cells to function. Up to one million Americans suffer from Parkinson's and incidence increases with age, according to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation. There is no cure for the disease, but there are treatment options such as surgery and medication to manage the symptoms.

So far, little is known about the development and function of Lewy bodi
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Contact: Bob Beard
reb8e@virginia.edu
434-982-4490
University of Virginia Health System
12-Feb-2004


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