Nerve growth or neurotrophic factors are small proteins that support neurons and encourage their growth and survival during development and Cure Parkinson’s is funding two studies of interesting neurotrophic factors: called cerebral dopamine neurotrophic factor or CDNF and GDF5.

Professor Mart Saarma and colleagues at the University of Helsinki have discovered a tiny fragment of the CDNF protein (C-CDNF) that can pass through the blood brain barrier (the protective membrane surrounding the brain and central nervous system) and still exhibit the positive properties of the larger molecule, CDNF. They are testing this protein in laboratory models of Parkinson’s to assess its potential as a neuroprotective therapy. It is hoped that C-CDNF will allow for a more straightforward oral or peripheral administration of a future neurotrophic factor based therapy for Parkinson’s.

Professors Gerard O’Keeffe and Aideen Sullivan in Cork, Ireland have determined that the nerve growth factor GDF5 provides brain protective benefits in models of Parkinson’s. The team will be comparing and combining two nerve growth factors (GDNF and GDF5) and will use modified viruses to carry the growth factors directly into the brain of Parkinson’s models in the lab. If successful, this project will lay the foundations for GDF5 to move forward into clinical trials.

Cure Parkinson’s continues to explore every opportunity for neurotrophic factors in Parkinson’s and will persevere within this field of research.

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