Grant for Amalia Dolga from ParkinsonFonds
Parkinson's disease causes brain cells that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine to die. But where does the disease start? Evidence suggests that a failure of the brain's immune system may be the root cause of the disease. hDMT researcher Amalia Dolga, Assistant Professor at the University of Groningen's Department of Molecular Pharmacology, has received a grant from the Dutch charity Stichting ParkinsonFonds to investigate this hypothesis using patient-derived cells.
Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disease in which dopamine-producing brain cells die, negatively affecting patients' motor functions. However, it is not clear why these brain cells die. 'Immune cells in the brain called microglia could play a role', explains Amalia Dolga. A classic symptom of Parkinson's disease is the occurrence of 'Lewy bodies' in brain cells. 'These are clumps of a protein called alpha-synuclein. Normally, the microglia remove these clumps. There are indications that this failure to clean up the brain leads to the symptoms of Parkinson's.'
Together with her colleague Arjan Kortholt, Associate Professor in Cell Biochemistry, Dolga has received a € 250,000 grant from the Dutch charity ParkinsonFonds to investigate why microglia malfunction. Of course, obtaining brain cells from patients is next to impossible. However, Dolga has pioneered a new technique to produce microglia from stem cells. The technique starts with normal cells from a patient, which are treated to become induced stem cells. Next, they are coaxed to develop into microglia. 'The method for doing this is very new, and my lab is one of the first in the Netherlands to master it', says Dolga.