The ERC Advanced Grant is one of Europe’s most prestigious programmes for research financing. The grant has now been awarded to Ernest Arenas to tailor dopamine-producing brain cells for patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Roughly 22,000 people have Parkinson’s disease in Sweden, making it the second most common neurological disease after Alzheimer’s. Parkinson’s disease mainly attacks the brain’s dopamine-producing cells.
By mapping these cells at a molecular level using single-cell RNA sequencing, amongst other tools, Ernest Arenas’s research group hopes to have sufficient information to create new ones, either by using stem cells that are then transplanted into the patient, or by reprogramming existing brain cells in vivo.
The group has already managed to convert new dopamine-producing neurons in mice and reprogramme human brain cells in a laboratory environment.
“The ERC Advanced Grant gives us a huge opportunity to improve current cell replacement strategies and make them more precise,” says Professor Arenas at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics at Karolinska Institutet. “The project can lead to more exact methods involving designing the right cell types for therapeutic intervention from the start.”
The aim of both therapeutic alternatives is developing a one-off treatment for Parkinson’s disease. The ERC Advanced Grant is a five-year grant totalling approximately 2.5 million euro.
“We hope that by five years’ time we’ll have a good understanding of the cell type in question and attained proof-of-concept, where we show that this is possible to do,” says Professor Arenas.
This article was first published on 31 March by Karolinska Institutet.