Seeking a synaptic solution to Parkinson’s disease

Dr. Hideto Takahashi
Assistant Professor
Université de Montréal

Dr. Hideto Takahashi, a researcher at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute, has pointed to a protein called neurexin as a key contributor to neurodegenerative disease. This agent is a building block of synapses, the vital links between neurons that allows these brain cells to communicate with one another. Neurexin also moderates agents associated with the development of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, making it a good candidate for potential therapies to treat these disorders. Takahashi’s research is made possible through a New Investigator Award from Parkinson Canada National Research Program for $90,000 over 2 years.

Dr. Hideto Takahashi’s interest in Parkinson’s disease was spawned by a desire to understand the synapse, a fundamental piece of the nervous system’s architecture. Synapses allow neurons to send chemical signals to one another, laying the foundation for our ability to monitor and control the many different parts of our body.

Takahashi, a medical doctor and assistant professor at Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Medicine and researcher at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute, refers to the significance of a protein called neurexin, which helps neurons establish and maintain these connections with one another.

“We were very excited to find that it [neurexin] is probably the common pathological mechanism of Parkinson disease as well as Alzheimer’s disease, which means it could be a common drug target for both of those neurodegenerative disorders,” Takahashi says.

He is grateful to Parkinson Canada for supporting the growth of his laboratory, which is in the early stages of development. His initial experiments focused on neurons grown in the lab, and he is progressing to characterizing synaptic organizing complexes, the intricate chain of biochemicals responsible for building and maintaining the body’s vast network of neurons. This phase of the research will examine the disease process in mice, which will bring him closer to identifying ways of treating or even preventing neurodegeneration.

Takahashi now has several students working with him to learn more about how neurexin interacts with key agents associated with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. By revealing how these interactions can contribute to the breakdown of synapses and the loss of brain function, the results could point the way to better treatments for people suffering from such disorders.

“I want to demonstrate the pathological role of neurexin in altering the brain morphology and function in neurodegenerative disorders,” he concludes.