Lab technician using microscope. (photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)

Researchers learn how to increase brain’s dopamine production

Affecting millions of people around the world, Parkinson’s disease is characterized by a loss of dopamine- secreting brain cells (dopaminergic neurons) that causes devastating motor symptoms. At present, there is no cure for the fatal neurological disorder, but only treatment aimed at improving symptoms.

A major step forward in Parkinson’s disease research in recent years was the discovery that human stem cells can basically be differentiated into dopaminergic neurons usable for modeling of Parkinson’s, drug screening and cell-replacement therapy. But at present, the yield of stem cell-derived dopaminergic neurons is still low. This is mostly blamed on the poor understanding of the exact molecular mechanisms directing the embryonic development of dopaminergic neurons, which is the basis for the differentiation of stem cells to dopaminergic neurons.

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev researchers discovered that proteins called BMP5/7 are absolutely required for the embryonic development of dopaminergic neurons. Moreover, they found that the intracellular signaling protein SMAD1 plays a critical role in this process. Interestingly, SMAD1 is required for the development of particular substantia nigra neurons, which predominantly degenerate in Parkinson’s disease, shedding light on the vulnerability of this subset of dopaminergic neurons.

Their study was published recently in the Journal of Neuroscience, where it was chosen as the cover story.

“Notably, we demonstrated that BMP5/7 robustly increase the differentiation of human-induced pluripotent and induced neural stem cells to dopaminergic neurons. Taken together, our results provide critical information in order to more efficiently program stem cells to dopaminergic neurons, thus critically increasing graft outcome and reducing side effects after transplantation in cell replacement therapies currently developed for Parkinson’s disease,” said lead author Dr. Claude Brodski of the department of physiology and cell biology, faculty of health sciences and the Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience. Brodski collaborated with researchers from Austria, Germany and New York.

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Mayra Rodriguez

Content Editor at oneQube
Work from home mom dedicated to my family. Total foodie trying new recipes.Love hunting for the best deals online. Wannabe style fashionista. As content editor, I get to do what I love everyday. Tweet, share and promote the best content our tools find on a daily basis.
Mayra Rodriguez
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