Astrocytes are brain cells with crucial roles, including communication between nerve cells, clearance of unwanted material, and response to injury. It has been suggested that astrocyte performance is progressively impaired with aging, impacting nerve cell function and leading to neurodegeneration and diseases such as Parkinson’s. However, not many studies have been able to separate out human astrocytes from other cells in the brain to more clearly examine their function in aging and Parkinson’s disease (PD).
Comparing astrocytes from PD and elderly control volunteers will give us clues to the cause and possible treatment of PD.
The main goal of our study is to separate out and compare human astrocytes from older control volunteers and people with PD at different disease stages. One of the comparisons will be of RNA molecules that instruct astrocytes to make proteins. As changes in protein production are often causes of disease, this could lead to suggestions for specific treatments for PD.
Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease:
This will be the first study exploring RNA changes in human astrocytes at different PD disease stages. The mapping of any changes to disease stage will indicate whether these changes might be early versus late changes. We have a chance to discover new targets for disease-modifying treatments for PD.
Next Steps for Development:
Our program is also growing astrocytes from brain tissue collected at autopsy. This will allow us to experimentally test specific drugs against observed changes.