LCSB and Maastricht University investigate environmental risk factors for Parkinsons disease

23 January 2015

Developing Parkinson’s disease not only depends on our genetic makeup, but is also influenced by our lifestyle and the exposure to chemicals in our environment. Today, Prof Jos Kleinjans from Maastricht University and Prof Rudi Balling from the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biology (LCSB) of the University of Luxembourg, have signed a collaboration agreement to study and predict potential toxic effects of chemicals in relation to neurodegenerative disease risks.

“We know already a few chemicals that are suspected to cause Parkinson’s disease. However, it is not in detail understood how they cause the disease and whether there are other chemicals that act the same way”, explains Prof Rudi Balling, Director of the LCSB.

The research team will perform experiments to investigate the molecular networks inside the nerve cells that are perturbed by the known PD-causing chemicals – producing a molecular fingerprint for each chemical so to speak. In a next step, the scientists will design an online tool that cannot only map their findings but can predict the toxicological effects of new compounds from their molecular fingerprint. The prototype will be based on the Parkinson’s disease map (http://pdmap.uni.lu), a digital knowledge repository developed recently at the LCSB.

LCSB’s strong background on Parkinson’s disease and computational disease modelling will be complemented by the longstanding expertise in toxicology and toxicogenomics of Maastricht University. “Ensuring that new drug candidates are safe for humans is one of the most important and costly steps for pharmaceutical industries. Developing computer models that can predict toxicological effects of chemicals will greatly accelerate drug development”, says Prof. Jos Kleinjans, Chair of the Department of Toxicogenomics at Maastricht University. According to Kleinjans, simulating toxicological effects on the computer will also save money and reduce the number of animal experiments.

While the researchers will first focus on Parkinson’s disease to build their first prototype, the team has high hopes that the developed tool can be applied to other diseases in the near future.

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Foto from left to right: Dr Wouter Spek (TIBdevelopment), Gerda Vrielink (Dutch Deputy Ambassador), Prof Jos Kleinjans (Maastricht University), Prof Albert Scherpbier (Maastricht University), Peter Kok (Dutch Ambassador), Dr Thomas Dentzer (Luxinnovation), Prof Rudi Balling (LCSB), Ass Prof Theo de Kok (Maastricht University), Dr Sabine Mosch (LCSB), Dr Dr Carlo Duprel (FNR)

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Posted on Jan 26, 2015