12 Aug 2008 22:00:00.000
Scientists at The University of Nottingham have made a crucial breakthrough in the battle to slow or prevent the onset of a very common type of dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
The researchers have genetically produced the first ever mouse model with the type of brain degeneration, or nerve cell loss, seen in Lewy body disease and Parkinson’s disease which could eventually lead to more targeted drugs to treat the degenerative conditions.
The research, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, was jointly funded by the Alzheimer’s Research Trust and the Parkinson’s Disease Society.
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The study has been carried out by Professor John Mayer and Dr Lynn Bedford in the University’s School of Biomedical Sciences in collaboration with Professor Jim Lowe in the School of Molecular Medical Sciences.
Professor John Mayer said: “Current drugs given to people with Lewy body and Parkinson’s disease simply treat the symptoms. This model is the first platform to understand how the brain cell deterioration takes place. We will use this model to identify targets for new drugs to slow or prevent the disease.”
Lewy body disease, also known as dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) shares characteristics with both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Of the 700,000 people in the UK with dementia, around 15 per cent have Lewy body disease. The number of people with dementia is forecast to double within a generation.
Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, said: “This is a crucial breakthrough for scientists fighting Lewy body disease: a condition that up to 100,000 people in the UK live with. Further research using these models will enable us to find new drug targets. People with Lewy body disease suffer memory loss, visual hallucinations and movement difficulties. Unfortunately research is severely underfunded, and much more is needed if we are to defeat this devastating disease.”
Dr Kieran Breen, Director of Research and Development at the Parkinson’s Disease Society, added:
“The formation of Lewy bodies is a key event in the development of nerve cell death associated with Parkinson’s disease. Understanding how these are formed will help us to figure out what happens when nerve cells die in Parkinson’s and from this to develop therapies that will ultimately provide a cure for the condition. The majority of Parkinson’s research in the UK is currently funded by the Parkinson’s Disease Society through voluntary donations and we hope that advances such as this will stimulate further spending on Parkinson’s research.”
Depletion of 26S Proteasomes in Mouse Brain Neurons causes Neurodegeneration and Lewy-like Inclusions resembling Human Pale Bodies by R John Mayer et al is published in the August 13 edition of the Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 28, no. 32.
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 70 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.
It provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy).
Its students are much in demand from 'blue-chip' employers. Winners of Students in Free Enterprise for four years in succession, and current holder of UK Graduate of the Year, they are accomplished artists, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators and fundraisers. Nottingham graduates consistently excel in business, the media, the arts and sport. Undergraduate and postgraduate degree completion rates are amongst the highest in the United Kingdom.