Monday, 19 December 2016

Picturing Parkinson’s Disease. What lies beneath.

My name is Karla and I am a 4th year PhD student in SITraN. I come from Mexico and I work in Professor Oliver Bandmanns group, which focuses on researching Parkinson’s disease.
I recently I won the “Picturing Parkinson´s research” image competition at the Parkinson’s Research UK conference. This competition gave Parkinson´s researchers the opportunity to share insight into their research by using a representative image, accompanied by an engaging description.
My PhD focusses on a protein called TIGAR and understanding its role in Parkinson’s disease. Previous results from our group suggest it is related to the development of the disease. However, this work was done in zebrafish, therefore we wanted to look in the brains of people who had Parkinson’s disease to examine it further and provide a full clinical picture of the disease.
It has been a long journey investigating the mysterious ways that TIGAR might be triggering loss of neurons, which contribute to the problems related to Parkinson’s. We initially looked in a region called the substantia nigra in the human brain, which is the main area that neurons are lost in patients with Parkinson´s disease. From studying this, I decided to enter the competition by sharing this image of the substantia nigra from a Parkinson’s patient. I wanted to represent the tissue as a “desertic field” due to the loss of neurons. However, I also wanted to show the abundance of the protein TIGAR that we see in the remaining cells and in Lewy Bodies, which are abnormal aggregates of protein characteristically seen inside nerve cells of Parkinson’s disease patients.
It is clear from this that there is a relationship between TIGAR and Parkinson’s, however the mechanisms behind this relationship are still unknown.  For me, studying TIGAR in the brains of patients is a way of getting to know each of them personally and enhances my willingness to continue on this journey. In the future I hope to discover the role of TIGAR in Parkinson’s and offer a better therapy for all the people suffering from this relentless illness.