It starts simply. A slight tremor in a hand or a change in posture. However, as Parkinson’s disease (PD) progresses, patients have increasing mobility problems and neurological changes. PD is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the world, with around 60,000 new cases each year in the United States alone. According to a 2018 CDC report, complications from PD are the 14th most likely cause of death in the US.
In PD research, there are several key targets researchers consider when looking for ways to treat the disease. The first is the aggregation of alpha-synuclein in Lewy bodies. The second is a mutation in LRRK2 (Leucine-rich repeat Kinase 2), a gene that encodes enzymes. Common consensus among researchers is that developing compounds that target alpha-synuclein and its aggregation, or compounds that inhibit LRRK2 could offer huge potential to treat PD.
In collaboration with The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Charles River has worked across multiple sites to better understand the pathophysiology of PD and to develop imaging agents to use as biomarkers in clinical studies. Many compounds from different chemical classes have been synthesized and tested in cell-based models as potential agents to interact with aggregated alpha-synuclein. Promising compounds are then radio-labelled and evaluated in PD animal models. These tracers could potentially be used as imaging agents in patients to help visualize the development alpha-synuclein enriched Lewy bodies.