Omar M.A. El-Agnaf
College of Science and Engineering, HBKU, Education City, Qatar Foundation, Doha, Qatar
Developing effective treatments for neurodegenerative diseases is one of the greatest medical challenges of the 21st century. Parkinson’s disease (PD) and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) are very common neurological disorders of the elderly. Although many of these clinical entities have been recognized for more than a hundred years, it is only during the past fifteen years that the molecular events that precipitate the diseases have begun to be understood. Mutations in the alpha-synuclein gene cause early-onset PD, often associated with dementia. Neuropathologically these diseases are characterized by the presence of Lewy bodies, intraneuronal inclusions mostly composed of alpha-synuclein protein fibrils. Despite the progress that has been made in understanding the underlying disease mechanisms of PD and DLB, there remains an urgent need to develop methods for use in diagnosis. The development of reliable surrogate markers for the presence and abundance of alpha-synuclein lesions (Lewy bodies) in the brain would naturally facilitate a more streamlined work-up during the early care of PD and DLB patients, and importantly, allow for the biologically guided evaluation of future drug trials aimed at neuroprotection in the synucleinopathies. In this seminar, I will present the progress which has been made so far by our group to explore the use of CSF α-synuclein and its modified forms as biomarkers for PD, and highlight the challenges that lie ahead.