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Jens Schwamborn leads international consortium on Parkinson’s disease

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Published on Monday, 21 March 2016

In a new international research project, funded by the EU Joint Programme – Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND) with 1.5 Mio Euro, researchers from Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands and Israel combine their strengths to implements a novel 3D cell culture model to elucidate the effects of Parkinson’s disease on brain architecture and connectivity. The project called 3DPD is led by Prof. Jens Schwamborn from the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine at the University of Luxembourg.

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, in which particularly dopaminergic neurons of the midbrain suffer from premature ageing, resulting in several motor symptoms in patients. Although intensely studied worldwide, the complex aetiology including genetic and environmental risk factors is not fully understood and no cure is available for the disease.

“Many research projects have made use of 2D cell cultures models to study the disease. Such methods do however not take into account the complex architecture of the human brain and might hence miss important information in Parkinson’s disease”, explain Prof. Jens Schwamborn. “By culturing brain-like structures, so called organoids, from patient derived induced pluripotent stem cells we will resemble the human midbrain that is compromised in Parkinson’s disease.”

Schwamborn’s team has already succeeded to culture these organoids in ordinary cell culture dishes. In the new JPND project, the 3DPD consortium will take this technology a step further by developing the organoids from Parkinson’s patient cells in a multifunctional lab-on-a-chip device. Schwamborn explains: “This micro-analytical analysis platform will allow us to elucidate how Parkinson’s disease imparts architectural remodelling, dopamine release and network formation of the midbrain tissue. In addition, using microfluidics devices our approach is cost-effective and suitable for screening purposes.”

About JPND:

The research programme is funded the EU Joint Programme – Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND), which is the largest global research initiative aimed at tackling the challenge of neurodegenerative diseases. JPND aims to increase coordinated investment between participating countries in research aimed at finding causes, developing cures, and identifying appropriate ways to care for those with neurodegenerative diseases.

Kick-off meeting of the 3DPD research consortium in Luxembourg