What Role Does the Blood-Brain Barrier Play in Parkinson’s?
Postdoctoral Fellowship for Basic Scientists
Aurelie de Rus Jacquet, PhD of Université Laval, Québec (Canada), received a Parkinson’s Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship grant to study molecules (or cells) that could promote dysfunction in a specialized vascular system called the blood-brain barrier. People with Parkinson’s disease progressively lose the blood-brain barrier’s protection, but it is not currently understood why.
This barrier controls the crossing between the blood and the brain, and prevents toxic molecules found in the blood from entering the sensitive brain tissue and damaging cells.
The goal of this research is to identify factors on either side of the blood-brain barrier that could become targets for new drug treatments for PD.
“Most of the past research in the field has focused on understanding why neurons die over the course of the disease, but it is becoming clear that Parkinson’s disease is more complex than the loss of neurons,” said Dr. de Rus Jacquet. “Non-neuronal cells are also involved, and they could hold the key to understanding the global events underlying Parkinson’s disease onset and progression.”
Dr. de Rus Jacquet continued, “The second objective of the research is to understand if the blood of people with Parkinson’s disease contains toxic molecules that enter the brain and induce a loss of neurons and inflammation of the brain tissue. This topic is relatively less studied, but I find it fascinating because it could help identify new drug targets to slow or stop disease progression.”
Dr. de Rus Jacquet has established a 3D model of the blood-brain barrier using cells generated from healthy donors or people with a specific Parkinson’s disease-related gene mutation. She hopes to discover if non-neuronal cells or blood-borne factors may be responsible for the loss of neurons, and if targeting these cells could possibly help combat neurodegeneration.
“This award is an important recognition that my work can have a meaningful impact on the lives of people with Parkinson’s,” said Dr. de Rus Jacquet. “I would like to thank all Parkinson’s Foundation supporters for helping us move the research forward. Finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease and improving people’s lives is at the heart of what we do, and we can only achieve these goals by working together.”