Simulating Parkinson's Disease in Goldfish Spurs New Treatments

Researchers from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology are simulating Parkinson's disease in common goldfish (Carassius auratus) to create a relatively simple and inexpensive tool in the development of drugs to reduce symptoms and slow the progression of the degenerative neurological disease. The research was detailed in the November 2007 issue of Nature Protocols.

The team developed the goldfish model using MPTP (1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6 tetrahydropyridine), a potent neurotoxin that causes permanent symptoms of Parkinson's disease by killing neurons that create dopamine (a chemical that sends information to parts of the brain that control movement and coordination) in the brain. MPTP has long been used to simulate Parkinson's in humans, lower primates and other vertebrates, but the researchers turned to goldfish because they possess certain characteristics that make them better subjects when it comes to quickly observing the neuroprotective effects of drugs.

"The entire protocol described in our paper takes between 14 and 30 days, depending upon the number of fish used and the research plan," said lead researcher Dr. Orly Weinreb of the Technion Faculty of Medicine. "When combined with goldfish characteristics, such as an easily-accessible nervous system, an abbreviated blood-brain barrier and neuronal density, you have an attractive system for studying the disease - and potential drugs against it."

First developed by Professor Moussa Youdim of the Technion Faculty of Medicine and Dr. Harvey B Pollard (formerly at National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland), the goldfish model is achieved by injecting the fish with a single dose of MPTP, which causes classic Parkinson's disease symptoms that include degeneration of dopamine neurons and slowing of movement and trembling that are clearest after just three days.

"This model is best used for identifying drugs that may reduce disease symptoms, and modifying the disease," said Youdim, who co-authored the Nature Protocols paper.

Youdim successfully utilized the goldfish model during the development of the FDA-approved anti-Parkinson's drug Azilect(r) (Rasagiline) and selegiline, monoamine oxidase type-B (MAO-B) inhibitors that block the breakdown of dopamine, a chemical that sends information to the parts of the brain that control movement and coordination.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is Israel's leading science and technology university. Home to the country's winners of the Nobel Prize in science, it commands a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work in nanotechnology, computer science, biotechnology, water-resource management, materials engineering, aerospace and medicine. The majority of the founders and managers of Israel's high-tech companies are alumni. Based in New York City, the American Technion Society (ATS) is the leading American organization supporting higher education in Israel, with 22 offices around the country.

For more information, contact Kevin Hattori via email or call 212-407-6319

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