Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a significant global problem, affecting 10 million people worldwide. In Australia alone, 1 in every 350 Australians suffer from PD, with 32 new cases diagnosed each day. PD is associated with significant burden to the Australian economy, with total financial costs per year adding up to almost $1.1 billion, a number that has almost doubled since 2005. Given that the prevalence of PD is estimated to double by 2030, the search for an effective treatment for the disease is critical. Currently, the limited treatments available for PD treat only the symptoms and do not actually modify the brain mechanisms that contribute to the disease.
A major contributor to the spread of Parkinson’s disease throughout the brain is the transmission of an abnormally folded protein called alpha synuclein from brain cell to brain cell. Alpha synuclein normally helps to maintain normal communication between brain cells. In PD, for reasons that are not yet understood, the alpha synuclein begins to misfold and aggregate. While some of this alpha synuclein forms clumps called Lewy bodies within brain cells, alpha synuclein may also be released from brain cells into the extracellular space. There, it can be taken up by neighbouring brain cells, triggering the misfolding and aggregation of alpha synuclein within those cells. Thus, PD pathology can spread throughout the brain and lead to the emergence of both motor and non-motor symptoms of PD.
The aim of this project is to pioneer a novel technology to target this alpha synuclein within the extracellular space and clear it from the brain. This may help to stop the brain transmission of alpha synuclein, halting the spread of the disease, and leading to a disease-modifying treatment strategy for PD.