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New neurons 'could' be cure for Parkinson's

18 December, 2013

Imagine if you could send your brain a message that told it to grow some new neurons. Well, soon you might be able to.

Francesca Maclean, a recent graduate of Australian National University, has spent the past two years working towards a cure for Parkinson's disease with PhD students in the Laboratory of Advanced Biomaterials.

"In Parkinson's, neurons die and that results in reduced levels of dopamine, which is the chemical that tells your body when and how to move," she said.

"That's why people with Parkinson's shake.

"But we've come up with a way to help regenerate neurons.

"The process involves attaching proteins called growth factors to nanofibres that we synthesise in the lab. The proteins tell the brain what sort of cells to produce and how many.

"The growth factor proteins instruct the growth of new neurons and the nanofibres provide a scaffold for the neurons to grow on."

Maclean continued: "This is really cutting-edge stuff. There're only a couple of other labs in the world doing it.

"You need to have some engineering knowledge because the fibres have to be the same stiffness as the brain tissue, and you need to make sure it won't elicit an immune response."