Parkinson's disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the world. Though this debilitating disease affects approximately 1% of the world's population over the age of 60, the onset can occur as early in life as adolescence. The progressive loss of dopaminergic neurons from the mid-brain causes degeneration of the central nervous system due to impaired dopaminergic input. Since dopamine is crucial in sending signals for human movement coordination, this disorder affects the motor system, causing postural instability, trembling in limbs and impaired balance, for example.
Current treatments, which include neurotrophic factors and transplantation of dopamine-producing cells, have thus far only been partially effective. However, researchers in Sweden have now found that a protein, platelet-derived growth factor-BB (PDGF-BB), is effective in counteracting behavioural, tissue and biochemical effects caused by PD.
Treating rodent models with PD using PDGF-BB has resulted in the increased survival of dopaminergenic cells and the proliferation of neural progenitor cells. These findings suggest a new approach in repairing dysfunctional dopaminergic systems within PD patients. PDGF-BB has been shown to counteract the effects of PD in the experimental models and, depending on clinical trials, could soon be a candidate drug for treating PD in humans.
Both rat PDGF-B and human PDGF-B can be annotated using SynaTate™. SynaTate™, a free online bioinformatics application, displays predicted functions of PDGF-B based on protein structural motifs according to the SWISSPROT database. The structural functions in rat and human PDGF-B, respectively, have to be compared in order to better understand the homologues' gene expression, protein-protein interaction and their role in pathways. It is widely believed that further analysis could help bring scientists closer to treating PD in humans.