Searching for a Parkinson’s disease cure in animal venom

Finding a therapy against Parkinson’s disease remains a major challenge. The project proposed by this research team aims to explore the therapeutic potential of specific classes of bioactive compounds extracted from venoms of vipers and scorpions for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. The project builds on the partners’ unique expertise and is a perfect example of the win-win benefits of conducting South-North collaborative research, as promoted by EXAF.

Summary

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most prevalent neurodegenerative disorder for which there are no effective treatments today. PD is caused by the loss of dopamine-producing neurons in specific brain regions but eventually spreads to different brain regions as the disease progresses.

One key characteristic feature of the disease is the accumulation of proteinaceous aggregates, composed of the protein alpha-synuclein (α-syn) in the affected brain regions. Increasing evidence suggests that the aggregation of the α-syn and its cell-to-cell propagation in the brain play central roles in the initiation and progression of PD and several other neurodegenerative diseases that are collectively known as synucleinopathies. Alpha-syn aggregates are toxic and bind to cell surface receptors such as integrins, matrix metalloproteases, or ionic channels on neuron and/or microglia, leading to chronic neuroinflammation and neuronal damage. Accordingly, we hypothesise that specific ligands of integrins, matrix metalloproteases, and/or ionic channels could have a therapeutic effect on Parkinson’s disease.

In this project, we aim to use an integrated platform of validated preclinical models and drug discovery assay developed in the Lashuel lab.  The objective is to screen, identify and validate anti-PD drugs from vipers and scorpions venoms and assess their therapeutic potential for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and other synucleinopathies.

Keywords: Parkinson disease, Synucleinopathies, Alpha-synuclein, Animal venoms, Drug discovery

Principal investigators

Ines El Bini Dhouib

Ines El Bini Dhouib is currently an Assistant Professor in physiology at Pasteur Institute of Tunisia since 2017. She earned her doctoral degree of biological sciences from Science Faculty of Tunis (Tunisia) in 2015 and her Bachelor and Master degree in biological sciences from Biotechnological Institute of Monastir (Tunisia) in 2007.

In addition to her research activities, she teaches neurophysiology and neurosciences in several international and national bachelors and masters program. Since 2014, Ines El Bini has over 28 refereed publications and more than 20 oral presentations in international and national scientific congress.

Hilal Lashuel

Hilal Lashuel is an Associate Professor of life sciences and the director of the laboratory of molecular and chemical biology of neurodegeneration at the Brain Mind Institute, EPFL. 

Hilal Lashuel was a visiting Associate Professor at the Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University (2012-2013) and served as the Executive Director of Qatar Biomedical Research Institute (2014 –2016). He is also the founder and CSO of ND BioSciences SA, a biotechnology company that is developing innovative solutions to accelerate the development of early diagnostics and therapies for neurodegenerative diseases.