NATIONAL PROJECT GRANTS
Hope for Parkinson patients with GDNF
Parkinson's disease is one of the most neurodegenerative diseases affecting the increasingly ageing population in industrial nations. The death of neurons in specific parts of the brain leads to a decrease in the neurotransmitter dopamine. The continuous decline of neurons causes major symptoms that include muscle rigidity, tremor as well as slowing and loss of physical movement. Besides motor symptoms, the disease can also cause cognitive disorders and impairment of the vegetative nervous system, leading to a significantly reduced quality of life for patients and representing a considerable economic burden. The protein "glial derived neurotropic factor" (GDNF) might offer hope to Parkinson patients. GDNF is an endogenous nerve growth factor, which promotes neuron viability. In a previous project within the program Pro FIT, the Clinic for Neurology at the Charité demonstrated that neural pre‐differentiated mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) derived from human adipose tissue express GDNF in vivo. However, despite attempts to track the MSCs after transplantation, tracking remained unsuccessful. As a result, verification of this potentially highly effective therapeutic option is still lacking.
ParkCure is a collaborative follow‐up project between the Clinic for Neurology at the Charité and nanoPET Pharma GmbH within the program Pro Fit. The project's scope is to label GDNF‐transfected MSCs with a tracer developed by nanoPET Pharma. The respective tracer is detectable via MRI as well as PET and allows advanced studies regarding safety and efficacy of this therapy option for Parkinson's disease. The innovative tracer consists of particles with a core‐shell structure, where the core consists of magnetic material, allowing its detection by MRI and it suitability for magnetic cell separation. The shell is comprised of a second inorganic material, which can easily be labelled with radioactive fluorine (18F), thereby allowing its detection via PET. This tracer, therefore, allows multimodal imaging, faciliating the detection of single cells as well as enabling "follow‐up" studies over the entire therapeutic period. The project is financially supported by the European Regional Development Fund.