PD map: Putting together the pieces of the Parkinson's puzzle

October 23, 2013

Parkinson's disease continues to puzzle physicians and biologists alike - even though it is well-established that symptoms like muscle tremors, rigidity, and, during the final stages, immobility can all be traced back to the death of a certain type of brain cell called a dopaminergic neuron. The underlying cause of this cellular death is a complex web of interrelated genetic molecular processes as well as external factors, most of the details of which are well-known. But how the various factors correlate and influence each other continues to elude the scientific community. Now for the first time ever, researchers at the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) at the University of Luxembourg have published an interactive picture containing the current knowledge about the underlying genetic and molecular causes of Parkinson's disease. This "Parkinson's disease map," or "PD Map" for short has been published in the scientific journal Molecular Neurobiology. It will facilitate the systematic study of PD through a newly gained clarity of the existing knowledge about the disease (DOI 10.1007/s12035-013-8489-4).

"Indeed, biomedical research continuously gives us many new insights about Parkinson's." says Dr. Marek Ostaszewski, coordinator of the LCSB PD Map project. "Each year, thousands of new scientific publications appear on the subject - yet no single individual could possibly hope to keep a detailed track of this flood of information." All of this knowledge has to be sorted, meaningfully correlated, and continually refined to ultimately benefit patients. Ever since the Centre's founding four years ago, the LCSB scientists have made it a point to develop this disease overview and put it in a useful format of an interactive map available to both researchers and clinicians. In developing the map, the LCSB scientists worked closely with their colleagues at the Systems Biology Institute (SBI) in Tokyo, Japan. The SBI researchers already created a number of similar virtual maps of complex molecular processes and have extensive experience with the systematic analysis and mapping of existing knowledge. The LCSB was able to build on this experience and has put together a similar map, albeit of a complex disease.

Marek Ostaszewski sums up the most important benefit of the PD Map: "By uniting the existing knowledge about PD, the map sheds light on the connections between pieces of the puzzle nobody had thought existed - and which will form the basis for brand new research hypotheses." To the biological scientists the PD Map helps pinpoint the gaps in our current understanding of Parkinson's. Adds Ostaszewski: "We can more accurately identify pathological mechanisms that are incompletely understood and where more scientific work is needed. On this basis, research hypotheses can be established and verified by highly focused laboratory experiments." Prof. Dr. Rudi Balling, director of LCSB, says: "For us at the LCSB but also for many other research institutes, the map offers many impulses for further scientific investigation. There's a genuine interest on the part of the scientific community; other research institutes should benefit from it, and at the same time contribute their own expertise." An important area, where the map needs to reach out is clinical research. LCSB's efforts in this direction are greatly supported by the IBBL (Integrated Biobank of Luxembourg). Marek Ostaszewski says: "IBBL brings in invaluable expertise in developing and providing technologies as well as infrastructures for clinical science. Additionally IBBL enormously facilitates the dialogue between basic researchers and clinicians".

Of course, the contents of this recently established overview must remain fresh, and suitable tools need to be developed to integrate newly gained knowledge into the map. To Ostaszewski, the obvious solution is crowd sourcing. The basic idea is similar to how Wikipedia works: an online portal that scientists can use to simultaneously feed in their knowledge and which helps the map expand much more quickly than if just one single institution like the LCSB were to try and do it all. It's important the new entries are checked and carefully evaluated: "Every Parkinson's researcher has a special focus and considers his or her own research to be the most important," explains Ostaszewski. "A good web portal will allow everyone to tend to their own little garden, so-to-speak, while ensuring the information is correctly categorized and meaningfully correlated." A major challenge is ensuring the map content is readily accessible at all times using your web browser - and that it is intuitive. Adds Rudi Balling: "Only then will researchers in the basic sciences and clinicians be able to incorporate the map into their daily work - and use it to come up with new approaches to the prevention, diagnosis, and therapy of Parkinson's."
-end-
Fujita KA, Ostaszewski M, Matsuoka Y, Ghosh S, Glaab E, Trefois C,Crespo I, Peruma TMl, Jurkowski W, Antony PMA, Diederich N, Buttini M, Kodama A, Satagopam VP, Eifes S, del Sol A, Schneider R, Kitano H, Balling R, Integrating Pathways of Parkinson's Disease in a Molecular Interaction Map., Molecular Neurobiology 2013 doi:10.1007/s12035-013-8489-4

University of Luxembourg

Related Disease Articles from Brightsurf:

CLCN6 identified as disease gene for a severe form of lysosomal neurodegenerative disease
A mutation in the CLCN6 gene is associated with a novel, particularly severe neurodegenerative disorder.

Cellular pathway of genetic heart disease similar to neurodegenerative disease
Research on a genetic heart disease has uncovered a new and unexpected mechanism for heart failure.

Mechanism linking gum disease to heart disease, other inflammatory conditions discovered
The link between periodontal (gum) disease and other inflammatory conditions such as heart disease and diabetes has long been established, but the mechanism behind that association has, until now, remained a mystery.

Potential link for Alzheimer's disease and common brain disease that mimics its symptoms
A new study by investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital uncovered a group of closely related genes that may capture molecular links between Alzheimer's disease and Limbic-predominant Age-related TDP-43 Encephalopathy, or LATE, a recently recognized common brain disorder that can mimic Alzheimer's symptoms.

Antioxidant agent may prevent chronic kidney disease and Parkinson's disease
Researchers from Osaka University developed a novel dietary silicon-based antioxidant agent with renoprotective and neuroprotective effects.

Tools used to study human disease reveal coral disease risk factors
In a study published in Scientific Reports, a team of international researchers led by University of Hawai'i (UH) at Mānoa postdoctoral fellow Jamie Caldwell used a statistical technique typically employed in human epidemiology to determine the ecological risk factors affecting the prevalence of two coral diseases--growth anomalies, abnormalities like coral tumors, and white syndromes, infectious diseases similar to flesh eating bacteria.

Disease-aggravating mutation found in a mouse model of neonatal mitochondrial disease
The new mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variant drastically speeds up the disease progression in a mouse model of GRACILE syndrome.

Human longevity largest study of its kind shows early detection of disease & disease risks
Human Longevity, Inc. (HLI) announced the publication of a ground-breaking study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

30-year study identifies need of disease-modifying therapies for maple syrup urine disease
A new study analyzes 30 years of patient data and details the clinical course of 184 individuals with genetically diverse forms of Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD), which is among the most volatile and dangerous inherited metabolic disorders.

Long-dormant disease becomes most dominant foliar disease in New York onion crops
Until recently, Stemphylium leaf blight has been considered a minor foliar disease as it has not done much damage in New York since the early 1990s.

Read More: Disease News and Disease Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.