In the long-running investigation into the causes of Parkinson’s disease, scientists have a new lead: defects in the nuclei of brain-cell precursors. Post-mortem analysis of brain tissue from Parkinson’s patients revealed a high proportion of neurons [nerve cells] with deformed nuclei, suggesting nuclear deterioration plays a role in the disease. Researchers suspect the distortion might be caused by mutation in the LRRK2 gene that correlates with Parkinson’s, so they put the theory to the test. As induced pluripotent stem cells derived from patients became brain-cell precursors, nuclear architecture slowly deteriorated until they were clearly misshapen (pictured right) compared to healthy controls (left). The mutant cells also failed to mature into neurons. When the LRRK2 mutation was corrected, however, nuclei developed normally. Treating the brain-cell precursors with a particular compound achieved the same result, raising the possibility of a drug to reverse the problem and treat the disease.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.