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Parkinson’s Disease Research in Worms

Sherman Tang on December 18, 2012

We have seen a recent interest for Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) research services and wanted to share with our users exactly how useful this little worm in pharmaceutical research is turning out to be the study of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) has led to the development of many pharmacological models from transgenic rodents to non-human primates, and now worms (the aforementioned C. elegans, to be exact).

Many researchers have taken advantage of this tiny, transparent worm to study PD as well as Alzheimer’s disease, cystic fibrosis, ALS, epilepsy, and dystonia. The worm possesses a nervous system, digestive tract, musculature and reproductive system, which are all clearly visible with the use of fluorescent proteins inserted through genetic engineering.

Since the disease genes and disease pathways in humans are conserved in C. elegans, we can tinker with the genes that regulate neuronal cell death in the nematode. This allows researchers to gain insight on the disease in humans as well.1 Its anatomic and genotypic characteristics make C. elegans a valuable alternative model to explore the cellular and molecular pathways involved in neurodegenerative disorders.2

A laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin has developed a test with C. elegans to identify drugs that may help people with PD regain movement control. The video above shows this procedure and explains the applications of this test in PD research.

In addition to the academic research laboratories studying the disease and the contract research organizations that offer excellent in vivo models for this application, there are many advocates of the research. The most well known PD research advocacy group is the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Michael J. Fox, its founder and the actor known for many hit TV dramas as well as the iconic Marty McFly in “Back to the Future”, was diagnosed with young-onset PD. Through the foundation he has focused his efforts in finding a cure for PD.

Scientist continues to enhance its platform to provide researchers with the tools they need to find cures for diseases like PD, helping those researchers access animal models, in vivo technologies, and screening services they would otherwise not have in order to bring the future back to the present where people with PD and other neurological diseases will again be able to function as they did in the past.

  1. Nass R., Miller III, D. M., Blakely, R. D., (2001). C. elegans: a novel pharmacogenetic model to study Parkinson’s disease, Parkinsonism and Related Disorders 7 185-191
  2. Dexter, P. M., Caldwell, K. A., & Caldwell, G. A., (2012). A Predictable Worm: Application of Caenorhabditis elegans for Mechanistic Investigation of Movement Disorders, The American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics