NEW YORK and ST. LOUIS, Oct. 1 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Sigma-Aldrich (Nasdaq: SIAL) and The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) today announced a collaboration that is expected to develop more accurate preclinical research models of Parkinson's disease, a neurodegenerative disorder of unknown cause that affects nearly five million individuals worldwide(i). Under a research grant from MJFF, Sigma Advanced Genetic Engineering (SAGE(TM)) Labs - an initiative of Sigma-Aldrich's Research Biotech business unit - will use novel CompoZr(TM) zinc finger nuclease (ZFN) technology in an effort to create superior preclinical research models critically needed for the development of transformative treatments for Parkinson's disease. The models, which are expected to take as little as one year to develop, will be made broadly accessible to scientists throughout the Parkinson's research community in order to speed basic research and drug development efforts field-wide.
Though current mammalian models adequately recapitulate some outward symptoms of Parkinson's disease, no existing model has been able to accurately mimic the onset and progression of the underlying disease processes that characterize that disease in humans. Research already conducted into the genetic causes of Parkinson's disease has identified a number of genes but indicates a strong connection to mutations in five particular genes: LRRK2, alpha-synuclein, DJ-1, Parkin and PINK1. MJFF funding will allow Sigma-Aldrich's efforts to create five novel rat models with each of these genes knocked out.
Adopting a new approach to developing more effective and targeted research models, SAGE Labs will use the CompoZr ZFN technology in its efforts to design 'knockout' rat models in which the genes known to be directly implicated in Parkinson's disease are omitted. This research is expected to facilitate the development of new models that scientists believe will provide a better understanding of Parkinson's disease at the molecular, biochemical, physiological and behavioral levels. This knowledge may, in turn, result in new therapeutic targets and approaches for the treatment of Parkinson's disease.
"Our Foundation's mission is to accelerate the conversion of basic discoveries about Parkinson's disease into practical treatments that will make a difference in patients' lives," said Katie Hood, CEO of The Michael J. Fox Foundation. "To accomplish this, there is a critical need for new research models to more effectively screen potential new therapies, particularly neuroprotective therapies. We're excited about the knockout rat technology developed by Sigma-Aldrich, and hopeful for its prospects to quickly make a major impact on Parkinson's disease drug development efforts and help deliver breakthrough treatments to patients faster."
"The work undertaken and funding provided by The Michael J. Fox Foundation is fundamental to the scientific community's ability to get one step closer to the next generation of Parkinson's disease treatments," added Dr. Edward Weinstein, Director of SAGE Labs at Sigma-Aldrich. "With the power of our CompoZr technology, we are able provide a unique and innovative contribution to furthering research into this debilitating disorder. The models that we are developing may one day help in the development of new therapeutic approaches to a number of diseases. We are excited to have an opportunity to advance scientific understanding in areas that can directly improve the lives of those that suffer with this disease."
Because rats are physiologically similar to humans, they are ideal subjects for modeling human diseases and have been an important species for research in a number of fields including physiology, endocrinology, neurology, toxicology and cancer. Until recently it has been impossible to create rat models with particular genes deactivated, or 'knocked out.' However, using CompoZr ZFN technology, scientists at SAGE Labs are able to generate animal models with targeted genetic changes to better understand gene function and develop new therapeutic approaches.
For more information on this research program, visit http://www.sigma.com/sagelabs.
About The Michael J. Fox Foundation: Founded in 2000, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research is dedicated to ensuring the development of a cure for Parkinson's disease through an aggressively funded research agenda. The Foundation has funded $149 million in research to date. For more information please visit www.michaeljfox.org.
About Sigma-Aldrich: Sigma-Aldrich is a leading Life Science and High Technology company. Its biochemical and organic chemical products and kits are used in scientific research, including genomic and proteomic research, biotechnology, pharmaceutical development and as key components in pharmaceutical, diagnostic and other high technology manufacturing. The Company has customers in life science companies, university and government institutions, hospitals, and in industry. Over one million scientists and technologists use its products. Sigma-Aldrich operates in 38 countries and has 7,800 employees providing excellent service worldwide. Sigma-Aldrich is committed to Accelerating Customer Success through Innovation and Leadership in Life Science, High Technology and Service. For more information about Sigma-Aldrich, please visit its award-winning website at http://www.sigma-aldrich.com.
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(i) Source: Michael J. Fox Foundation
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