Asian Scientist (Mar. 4, 2014) – Researchers in Singapore have developed a highly sensitive fluorescence probe for detecting the activity of an enzyme that is elevated in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
The new probe can serve as a useful tool for the rapid assessment of an individual’s potential risk for Parkinson’s disease, paving the way for less costly non-invasive technologies and devices to monitor the risk and progression of this disease.
Monoamine oxidases (MAOs) are enzymes that are found mainly in the human brain. Its two isoforms – MAO-A and MAO-B – work together to help maintain the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain.
When the enzymes are over-activated, the brain produces an excessive level of neurotoxic byproducts, causing neuronal dysfunctions that lead to psychiatric disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.
Studies had found that the expression of MAO-B, but not MAO-A, is significantly elevated in the brain of Parkinson’s disease patients and increases with age.
Although MAO-B has been proposed as a marker for detecting Parkinson’s disease, there has been a lack of suitable probes for MAO-B specific detection in live cells and tissues.
The new probe, described in a paper published in Nature Communications, addressed the inadequacies of existing probes and can detect MAO-B with high sensitivity and precision.
The fluorescence label on the probe also allows it to be detected via high-resolution imaging techniques in tissues and organs, allowing researchers to effectively monitor the in vivo enzymatic activities of MAO-B in living systems.
The study also found that in patients with Parkinson’s disease, MAO-B activities are present only in human B-lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell), but not in fibroblasts (cells typically found in connective tissues).
“This suggests that MAO-B activity in peripheral blood cells of a patient might serve as an accessible and economical biomarker to evaluate the potential risk of an individual for this disease”, said Assoc Prof Lim Kah Leong, a senior author of the study.
The research team intends to by test the probe in a larger pool of patient samples and aim to eventually develop it into a commercial test kit to monitor the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
Source: NUS; Photo: mararie/Flickr/CC.
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