By Todd Taylor
The aggregation of the protein alpha-synuclein, or α-syn, is associated with the degeneration of neurons in Parkinson’s disease, and a new mouse-model study conducted at the University of Florida provides preclinical evidence that adoptive cellular therapy shows promise as a potential treatment option to target α-syn and improve symptoms.
Adoptive cellular therapy is a form of immunotherapy, treatment that uses a person’s own immune system to fight disease. In adoptive cellular therapy, T cells — a type of immune cell —are usually taken from a patient’s own blood or tissue, grown or changed in a lab and then given back to the patient.
In the new study, reported in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience, an adoptive cellular therapy-based vaccine was used in a mouse model of a genetic form of Parkinson’s to target α-syn.
“There is a compelling need to develop effective alternative immunotherapies uniquely targeting pathological α-syn,” said senior author Vinata Vedam-Mai, Ph.D., a research assistant professor of neurology at UF.
Using pre-activated T cells generated from immunized mice, the researchers reported that when administered prior to disease onset, behavior and survival rates improved, brain microstructural impairment was reduced and α-syn pathology burden decreased in the mouse model. The research team used functional gait analysis, MRI and immunohistochemical methods to evaluate the results.
Co-authors included Winston Chu, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow at NIH and a former graduate research assistant at UF, and UF neuroscientists Catherine Flores, Ph.D., an associate professor of neurosurgery, Benoit Giasson, Ph.D., a professor of neuroscience, and David Vaillancourt, Ph.D., a professor and chair of the UF College of Health & Human Performance’s department of applied physiology and kinesiology.
“The current findings strengthen other work in the field utilizing immune–based methods by modulating adaptive immune function using a new delivery platform that could treat Parkinson’s disease and perhaps other neurodegenerative disorders,” said Vedam-Mai. “Ultimately, the goal is to assess the efficacy of this approach in other animal models of Parkinson’s, which we hope will enable clinical translation.”