UK DRI is thrilled to announce that Group Leader Dr Tim Bartels, UK DRI at UCL, has been awarded funding to test a promising new biomarker for Parkinson’s disease. Working collaboratively with Eisai, one of the world’s leading research based pharmaceutical companies, a newly hired postdoctoral researcher will build on preliminary work from the group with the aim of improving diagnosis of the condition.
Dr Tim Bartels and his group investigate the structure of brain proteins adversely affected in neurodegenerative disease, for example, α-synuclein, which builds-up or aggregates in the neurones of people with Parkinson’s disease. The team recently discovered that α-synuclein can take on a complex but stable shape known as a helically folded tetramer, which prevents it from aggregating in disease. It has been observed that harmful mutations of the α-synuclein gene (SNCA) force the tetramer to destabilise, promoting aggregation of single α-synuclein proteins (monomers). Based on these findings, Dr Bartels’ group believe that determining the ratio of aggregating monomers to stable tetramers could represent a robust biomarker of Parkinson’s disease and facilitate diagnosis of the condition in the clinic.