New international task force aims to understand the role of aging in Parkinson’s disease

Researchers from 29 institutions, across 11 countries, will join forces in a new network funded by the Michael J Fox Foundation.

Researchers from 29 institutions, across 11 countries, will join forces in a new network funded by the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research to identify the best models to study the effect of aging in Parkinson’s disease development. 

Longevity.Technology: Models of Parkinson’s disease are a critical step in the advancement of understanding of the disease and in the development of new interventions. Parkinson’s disease is a complex multisystem disorder with a spectrum of features and a wide range of in vitro and in vivo models. Each model displays specific combinations of features and/or stages of the disease. However aging, a risk factor for Parkinson’s, is not often considered in the development and use of animal models – potentially omitting an important component of the disease and missing opportunities for the development of new interventions and their translation.  

To combat this, Professor Ilaria Bellantuono, Co-Director of the University of Sheffield’s Healthy Lifespan Institute has joined forces with Professor Heather Mortiboys from the University of Sheffield’s Neuroscience Institute to lead a group of experts and develop a much needed, systematic way to investigate if, and how, aging increases susceptibility to Parkinson’s disease. The new network officially launches today.

Professor Ilaria Bellantuono, Professor of Musculoskeletal Ageing said: “Studies to understand whether ageing is a driver of Parkinson’s Disease have given contradictory results due to the heterogeneity of the disease. The many models and plethora of measurements available to assess the development of Parkinson’s Disease have made it difficult to compare studies.

Photograph: Ilaria Bellantuono, Co-Director of the Healthy Lifespan Institute at the University of Sheffield

“By combining the expertise of key international leaders in ageing and Parkinson’s Disease we can identify the models that are best to study the effect of ageing in Parkinson’s Disease development. These models will be essential to test new drugs to ensure a more successful translation from preclinical trials to patient benefit [1].”

The project – PD-AGE – brings together interdisciplinary groups of clinical and pre-clinical researchers in Parkinson’s disease and aging, from academia and industry, to form a network to reach consensus on, prioritise, coordinate and systematically investigate the effect of aging in multiple in vitro and in vivo Parkinson’s disease models, to share knowledge, data and resources. 

The network will:

  • Deliver a roadmap of which animal models of Parkinson’s disease should be prioritised for testing in aging studies, and learning from best practice on how to design experiments in aging organisms (mice rats and non human primates).
  • Determine what should be measured for the characterisation of each animal model and which protocols should be standardised in animal studies.
  • Reach consensus on when to use induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) for studying the role of aging in Parkinson’s disease and identify differences in protocols, which may affect the generation of cellular aging features.
  • Establish consensus on which reagents and tools are required for the study of models such as rats and Non Human Primates  and aging.
  • Create a centralised web-based data repository with details of models developed, data generated (such as pathology, omics, biochemistry, cell biology and phenotype) including negative data, standard operating procedures and stored tissues to be made available for pathology and gene expression studies.
  • Establish an early career research group to build capacity.