Healthy Living

Sending a Protein to Space for Parkinson's Research

Sending a Protein to Space for Parkinson's Research

The Michael J. Fox Foundation is the world's largest nonprofit foundation for Parkinson's research. The foundation is dedicated to helping find a cure for Parkinson's disease. It also strives to help make the therapies that are currently available to people with Parkinson's better. There are many people that dedicate their time and efforts into searching for the cure.

The foundation is working towards the cure and towards bettering treatments with their heavily funded research program. This program has many scientists on staff that pair with Parkinson's patients, businesses, people that are willing to try clinical trials, donors, and volunteers. With so many people working towards the same goal, the foundation has been able to push the fight for a cure forward in great strides.

The foundation helps people find the clinical trials that are needed to learn more about Parkinson's and help those that have the disease. There is a Fox trial Finder that is an online tool that helps people learn more about these clinical trials. It allows more people to know about the trials and participate in them to gain more information on the disease and to make advancements toward a cure.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation's New Partner

The Michael J. Fox Foundation has recently gained a new partner in the fight for the Parkinson's cure - The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space. With the partnership of these two organizations, it is going to be possible to send a Parkinson's protein into space. The LRRK2 is an important protein in the search for a cure for Parkinson's.

The partnership between the two organizations was announced on July 20th, 2017. This partnership will allow the protein to be sent into space where the conditions are better suited to grow it. The growth of this protein has been stifled by the gravity that the Earth pushes on it. Once under microgravity conditions, the protein may be able to grow so scientists can better examine it. With the new conditions in space, the LRRK2 protein may be able to grow protein crystals that are larger and well formed. This will help scientists to be able to better examine the protein. With optimal observation conditions the protein could help scientists develop better therapies for Parkinson's patients.

What Is the LRRK2 Protein?

The LRRK2 protein is a key component in many scientists' research with Parkinson's disease. The more information that is gathered about the protein, the better they will be able to understand the way Parkinson's disease is developed and how it progressive over time. Learning about the progress of the disease can help them determine how to stall its advancement and create better treatments.

The LRRK2 protein is being sent to the International Space Station in August of 2017. It will be part of the shipment that is being provided for the SpaceX CRS-12 cargo resupply mission. CASIS is in charge of sending scientific materials to the International Space Station and bringing materials back as well. The work that is done in the laboratory is also overseen by CASIS. The Michael J. Fox Foundation approached CASIS to promote this project to help study the LRRK2 protein. The foundation has helped prepare and support sending the protein into space with the help from the team at the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space.

LRRK2 is a primary target for research for scientists that are trying to understand Parkinson's disease. The medications and treatments that they are developing for Parkinson's heavily rely on information from the LRRK2 gene. When this gene mutates this causes Parkinson's disease. Mutations are also connected with a person having higher levels of the LRRK2 protein kinase. This protein is able to modify other proteins. 

How Can this Help with Parkinson's?

Scientists believe that controlling the LRRK2 can lead to stopping Parkinson's disease from developing. For anyone with Parkinson's disease they believe that it can help to slow the progression of the disease. There are instances of medications responding well to other protein kinase by use of inhibitors to react with them.  They believe that the LRRK2 protein can be targeted through medication to slow its progression since it is likely to respond well to this type of treatment. Developing medication that interacts with LRRK2 proteins may prove to help Parkinson's patients on a broader scheme than just as a mutation carrier.  There has been studies that have looked at the link between mutation carriers and idiopathic Parkinson's patients. The partnership between the foundation and the CASIS may help many patients that have Parkinson's disease lead a better life with treatments better tailored to their disease.

The problem with developing medication and treatments for Parkinson's with information from the LRRK2 protein lies in the fact it is difficult to grow and study. The structure of this protein has been difficult for scientists to observe as the protein samples tend to be smaller with many defects. Without knowing the exact structure or shape of the protein scientists are being stopped from developing new medications or treatments.

Once the structure of the protein is known it will unlock the enigma that Parkinson's disease is. It will help them create therapies that will hopefully lead to a cure for Parkinson's. People will have access to better medication and treatments that are tailored to target what is causing their disease.

Sending the Protein to Space

Sending the protein into space will help scientists observe its growth better. The gravitational field on Earth is stopping scientists from seeing the LRRK2 protein in the resolution needed to make new discoveries. The Earth's ground-grown version is not able to be used for better treatments or medications. The microgravity that the International Space Station has will allow for better growth. As the protein will be able to grow with less restrictions. This will lead to crystals that are larger than their Earth grown counterparts. With the protein sample being larger in size scientists will be able to observe the protein with higher resolution and the protein may develop with less imperfections. 

The CASIS organization is ready and willing to partner with the Michael J. Fox Foundation to provide the right environment to produce better protein crystals. The partnership will lead to discoveries about the structure of the protein and hopefully new treatments and medications that will better the lives of those with Parkinson's disease. The process to study the proteins has already been planned and is underway. The Michael J. Fox Foundation will prepare the LRRK2 protein to be transferred to the International Space Station where it will be crystallized. After around a month of growth samples of the LRRK2 protein crystals will be collected, packaged, and sent back with the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. Once they return they will be examined and help to better understand Parkinson's.

This new partnership between the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space is one of the many steps there will be in finding a cure for Parkinson's disease. The foundation has been working restlessly to help provide treatments for people with Parkinson's that help to better their lives while studying how the disease works. The information gathered during this partnership and experiment will help to unlock the secrets that the LRRK2 protein holds about the development of this disease. There are many people that are working on this project and hope to see the results of such a spectacular opportunity for optimal conditions for a study of this nature.

Key Takeaways

  • The Michael J. Fox Foundation has recently gained a new partner in the fight for the Parkinson's cure - The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space. 
  • Organizations plan to send the protein, LRRK2, to space because it will grow better there with gravity conditions.
  • Learning about the progress of the disease can help them determine how to stall its advancement and create better treatments.