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Parkinson’s: small molecules researched for the regeneration of dopaminergic neurons

Researchers in the University of Helsinki plan to develop orally administrable small molecules that act similarly to neurotrophic factor GDNF.

Parkinson’s UK has granted Professor Mart Saarma and postdoctoral researchers Yulia Sidorova and Merja Voutilainen from the Institute of Biotechnology, Finland, a grant of £35,000 over 8 months to develop orally administrable small molecules that act similarly to glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF).

“GDNF has earlier been recognized as a possible eliminator of the cause of Parkinson’s disease. However, there are problems with the use of GDNF. It diffuses poorly, is expensive and does not penetrate blood-brain barrier. So we aim at molecules that could work better in this to support suffering neurons in the brains of Parkinson’s disease patiens,” says Professor Mart Saarma.

The group has already identified several candidate molecules which activate GDNF receptors in immortalized cells and shown that one of them promoted survival of dopamineric neurons in vitro.

“We also have another candidate compound that has not yet been tested on dopaminergic neurons. Its ability was better that that of GDNF family member artemin to stimulate neurite outgrowth from sensory neurons. We would like to test the activity of the the latter molecule towards survival of dopaminergic neurons and test both GDNF mimetics in animal model of PD.”


Helsingin yliopisto (University of Helsinki)