In a new study of human blood samples, a neuroscience research team led by Habibeh Khoshbouei, Ph.D., Pharm.D., an associate professor of neuroscience and psychiatry at UF’s College of Medicine, and graduate research assistant Adithya Gopinath demonstrated a novel approach to examine markers of dopamine signaling in peripheral immune cells.
The study, published in the Journal of Immunological Methods, describes a sensitive and reproducible approach to study the signaling of the key neurotransmitter dopamine in blood-borne human immune cells — a method that could be applied to better understand dopamine signaling both in good health and in disease. Dopamine helps regulate movement, learning, mood and emotional responses, and this new method to examine its signaling promises to enhance and facilitate research into disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and addiction.
The discovery also opens a new pathway to potentially use dopamine signaling as a way to monitor the success or failure of some therapeutic interventions, particularly those targeting the carrier called dopamine transporter and the enzyme called tyrosine hydroxylase in peripheral immune cells.
“Using this novel methodology, we anticipate exciting breakthroughs in diseases that involve dopamine signaling,” Gopinath said.
In addition, he said, the investigators made a second notable finding: a new way to preserve and transport blood samples belonging to patients with disease to better maintain some key characteristics of the blood.
“We have determined that the existing methods used by many groups that currently store bio specimens do not preserve several key characteristics of blood samples,” Gopinath said. “This is likely influencing the outcome of research that uses these bio-specimen repositories and may even be impairing research progress into diseases with dysfunctional dopamine systems.”