Drug discovery in Parkinson's disease-Update and developments in the use of cellular models

Int J High Throughput Screen. 2011 Jun;2011(2):15-25. doi: 10.2147/IJHTS.S8681.


Parkinson's disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder and is characterized by the degeneration of dopaminergic (DA) neurons within the substantia nigra. Dopamine replacement drugs remain the most effective PD treatment but only provide temporary symptomatic relief. New therapies are urgently needed, but the search for a disease-modifying treatment and a definitive understanding of the underlying mechanisms of PD has been limited by the lack of physiologically relevant models that recapitulate the disease phenotype. The use of immortalized cell lines as in vitro model systems for drug discovery has met with limited success, since efficacy and safety too often fail to translate successfully in human clinical trials. Drug discoverers are shifting their focus to more physiologically relevant cellular models, including primary neurons and stem cells. The recent discovery of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell technology presents an exciting opportunity to derive human DA neurons from patients with sporadic and familial forms of PD. We anticipate that these human DA models will recapitulate key features of the PD phenotype. In parallel, high-content screening platforms, which extract information on multiple cellular features within individual neurons, provide a network-based approach that can resolve temporal and spatial relationships underlying mechanisms of neurodegeneration and drug perturbations. These emerging technologies have the potential to establish highly predictive cellular models that could bring about a desperately needed revolution in PD drug discovery.