The cause of Parkinson's disease (PD) remains unknown despite it being the second most prevalent neurodegenerative condition. Indeed, there is a growing consensus that there is no single cause, and that PD is a multifactorial systemic condition, in which a number of factors may determine its etiopathogenesis. We describe a systems approach that addresses the multifactorial aspects of PD and overcomes constraints on conventional experimentation imposed by PD's causal complexity, its long temporal duration, and its uniqueness to human brains. Specifically, a mathematical model of brain energy metabolism is used as a core module to which other modules describing cellular processes thought to be associated with PD can be attached and studied in an integrative environment. Employing brain energy usage as the core of a systems approach also enables the potential role that compromised energy metabolism may have in the etiology of PD. Although developed for PD, it has not escaped our attention that the energy systems approach outlined here could also be applied to other neurodegenerative disorders—most notably Alzheimer's disease. WIREs Syst Biol Med 2011 3 1–6 DOI: 10.1002/wsbm.107
WIREs Syst Biol Med
An energy systems approach to Parkinson's disease
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is interested in using genomic tools to understand how an embryo develops into a functioning organism. His group focuses on neural crest cells, a group of stem cells that differentiate into a wide variety of tissues in the bodys. Issues with the development of the neural crest cells can cause many diseases, ranging from Waardenburg syndrome to cleft lip and palate. Using genomic research tools, Dr. Pavan seeks to identify the genes necessary for normal neural crest cell development, specifically the ones which differentiate into melanocytes. At least 15 genes have been recognized as important in the development of neural crest cells, but there are likely hundreds of genes involved in total. Dr. Pavan’s lab often uses the models of neural crest cell disorders in mice in order to identify the genes needed for normal development. They then study how these genes function, and whether there are corresponding genes in humans that can cause human diseases.Learn More