About Prof. Jens Schwamborn and his project on treatment of Parkinson’s disease
Together with his partner Javier Jarazo, neuroscientist Prof. Jens Schwamborn has been researching the production of 3D brain organoids, also known as mini-brains, for years. The two founders of the research company OrganoTherapeutics specialize in organoids for the midbrain, which are grown from stem cells of Parkinson patients. With the help of these mini-brans, Prof. Jens Schwamborn researches drugs and therapy options for the treatment of the so far incurable Parkinson’s disease and contributes to the research of SARS-CoV2.
– How Parkinson’s disease affects patients
– What lies behind the term brain organoids
– How brain organoids can be helpful for Parkinson’s research
– An award-winning process
– Stable funding is the goal
– A project for the future
– Covid-19 also attacks the brain
– Using mini-brains against the corona virus
HOW PARKINSON’S DISEASE AFFECTS PATIENTS
As Jens Schwamborn describes, Parkinson’s disease, technically known as PD, is a degenerative, incurable disease that affects the central nervous system. Over time, the disease causes the nerve cells in the midbrain that reproduce dopamine to slowly die. Parkinson’s disease is therefore commonly referred to as shaking palsy and manifests itself in movement disorders and slowdowns, stiff muscles and muscle tremors. If detected at an early stage, the symptoms can still be counteracted with special medication. At a late stage, those affected may need assistance with even the smallest everyday movements.
WHAT LIES BEHIND THE TERM BRAIN ORGANOIDS
Organoids are pieces of tissue grown from stem cells in a test tube that researchers can use to study certain life processes. Prof. Jens Schwamborn is concentrating here on the production of brain organoids that are specifically targeted at the midbrain and have been produced from the stem cells of Parkinson’s patients. While this cannot fully reproduce the functions of a real brain, they the mini-brains have some significant similarities in their structure that make it possible to study the disease precisely.
HOW BRAIN ORGANOIDS CAN BE HELPFUL FOR PARKINSON’S RESEARCH
As Prof. Jens Schwamborn explains, in Parkinson’s research there have so far only been therapeutic approaches that are symptomatic, i.e. that are only used when symptoms are already present. With his research into neuroprotective therapies, however, the biochemist starts with the development of the disease itself, which is rooted in the loss of nerve cells. Since the brain organoids were grown from stem cells of Parkinson’s patients, the resulting nerve cells also carry the genetic information underlying Parkinson’s disease. This makes it possible for Jens Schwamborn to study the disease directly on the midline organoids and to find out how Parkinson’s works.
AN AWARD-WINNING PROCEDURE
Prof. Jens Schwarmborn has now been able to accept a number of awards with OrganoTherapeutics in recognition of his research. One of the biggest successes was receiving the SLAS New Product Award 2021. A total of 20 SLAS awards are presented annually in five categories to show appreciation for the work of scientists worldwide. The SLAS New Product Award is given by the jury for projects that show good market prospects, future impact, originality as well as a conceptual. With their 3D brain organoids, Prof. Jens Schwarmborn and Javier Jarazo were able to hold their own among thousands of applicants and win the coveted prize. But that’s not all: in 2021, OrganoTherapeutics was also awarded the Biovaria Emerging Startup Award, once again proving how important the startup concept’s findings are.
STABLE FUNDING IS THE GOAL
As with much research, one problem Jens Schwamborn and Javier Jarazo are currently struggling with is funding for their project. The researchers have therefore set themselves the goal of attracting larger partners from the pharmaceutical industry to their project as soon as possible in order to be able to financially support the three to five years of research for the preclinical phase of their work. The SLAS award was a big step in this direction, as it connects a broad portfolio of scientific partners and sponsors and can function as a door opener for Jens Schwamborn.
A PROJECT FOR THE FUTURE
The 3D brain organoids can be used not only for advanced research into Parkinson’s disease. The project can also be used to test active substances in other areas without having to use patients as test subjects or animals for medical purposes. With OrganoTherapeutics, Prof. Jens Schwamborn aims to reduce the amount of animal testing required in pharmaceutical research.
COVID-19 ALSO ATTACKS THE BRAIN
Jens Schwamborn and Javier Jarazo are also involved in current research on SARS-COV2 with their organoids. As part of a study in Wuhan, it was found that a large proportion of patients suffering from Covid-19 developed neurological problems in addition to respiratory symptoms, regardless of whether a disease course was classified as mild or severe. The neurological disorders associated with Covid-19 were even shown to lead to neuronal loss in some of the subjects studied.
WITH MINI-BRAINS AGAINST THE CORONA VIRUS
As Prof. Jens Schwamborn explains, OrganoTherapeutics‘ mini-brain models are deliberately infected with the corona virus in high-security laboratories at the Luxembourg Institute of Health and then closely examined. Before OrganoTherapeutics receives the infected brains back for closer examination, however, the virus is inactivated to ensure hazard-free return transport. When examining the mini-brans using special high-throughput microscopes and powerful computer clusters, Prof. Jens Schwamborn focuses primarily on the death of the cells and the reduction of neuronal functions to identify the exact changes caused by the virus.
OrganoTherapeutics use cutting-edge human-specific mini-brains for the discovery and development of effective drug candidates targeting Parkinson”s disease. We screen new molecules on our proprietary human-specific minibrains which represent a model mimicking faithfully the human Parkinson”s disease pathology. OrganoTherapeutics aims at developing new drug candidates against Parkinson”s disease which are tested in state-of-the art 3D patient models. OrganoTherapeutics has developed first own proprietary drug candidates and has access to attractive libraries for further screening.
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