Using fibril structure as a diagnostic and prognostic measure in Parkinson’s Disease

Investigators: Scott Ryan and Peter Stys

The protein, a-synuclein accumulates into aggregates in the brains of people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and is the primary component of Lewy Bodies. a-synuclein deposition in the cortex is the strongest pathological correlate with dementia in PD. When a-synuclein aggregates accumulate in cells they have a unique shape (or structure) that we call a fibril. 

We can see this structure using high-resolution approaches such as Magnetic Resonance and Cryo-Electron Microscopy and correlate this information with more scalable approaches such as Fluorescent Probes that respond to the unique structural elements within the fibril. 

We believe we can use these probes to inform on changes in fibril structure that will facilitate the development of diagnostic and prognostic tools that will let us identify people at risk of PD early and stratify patients at high risk for non-motor symptoms such as dementia.