Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is characterised by tremors and a slowing of movement called bradykinesia: these symptoms are caused by the death of a specific set of neurons in the brain. Studying the genes that are disrupted in PD patients is key to understanding the molecular basis of this disease. This project aims to develop a novel zebrafish model for PD. Like humans, zebrafish are vertebrates and have the same dopaminergic neurons that die in patients with PD and they have the same genes known to go wrong in PD. A new technique will be employed to remove a PD gene from the zebrafish genome. Following this, movement in these fish will be measured using a non-invasive system developed for the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in human patients which takes digital measurements of tremor and bradykinesia. Using this method it will be possible to measure the effects of disrupting a specific PD gene in zebrafish and so determine whether this is a good model of the human disease. A zebrafish model of PD has the potential for high throughput in vivo drug screening that is not economically viable using other vertebrate models.
Drs Pownall and Smith will be participating in "The Pint of Science festival 2014" a programme where scientific researchers travel to pubs across the UK to discuss their latest findings with the public. The festival will run from the 19th to the 21st of May in collaboration with 14 leading UK universities and institutions and in 44 pubs across 8 different cities. Our presentation will take place at the Brigante pub on Michelgate 21/05/14.