Can cellular models revolutionize drug discovery in Parkinson's disease?

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2009 Nov;1792(11):1043-51. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2009.08.014. Epub 2009 Sep 3.


The study of mechanisms that underlie Parkinson's disease (PD), as well as translational drug development, has been hindered by the lack of appropriate models. Both cell culture systems and animal models have limitations, and to date none faithfully recapitulate all of the clinical and pathological phenotypes of the disease. In this review we examine the various cell culture model systems of PD, with a focus on different stem cell models that can be used for investigating disease mechanisms as well as drug discovery for PD. We conclude with a discussion of recent discoveries in the field of stem cell biology that have led to the ability to reprogram somatic cells to a pluripotent state via the use of a combination of genetic factors; these reprogrammed cells are termed "induced pluripotent stem cells" (iPSCs). This groundbreaking technique allows for the derivation of patient-specific cell lines from individuals with sporadic forms of PD and also those with known disease-causing mutations. Such cell lines have the potential to serve as a human cellular model of neurodegeneration and PD when differentiated into dopaminergic neurons. The hope is that these iPSC-derived dopaminergic neurons can be used to replicate the key molecular aspects of neural degeneration associated with PD. If so, this approach could lead to transformative new tools for the study of disease mechanisms. In addition, such cell lines can be potentially used for high-throughput drug screening. While not the focus of this review, ultimately it is envisioned that techniques for reprogramming of somatic cells may be optimized to a point sufficient to provide potential new avenues for stem cell-based restorative therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Drug Discovery / methods*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy*
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism*
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism*