Published: 02-11-2021 07:49 | Updated: 02-11-2021 07:51

Sophie Erhardt recieves research grant from SSF

Sophie Erhardt has recieved a research grant from SSF, Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research. The name of the project is “Neuroprotective properties of the proteasome activator PA28α”.

Sophie Erhardt, PhD, Senior researcher, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Karolinska Institutet. Photo: private

Congratulations Sophie! Tell us about your project!

Chronic mental illness (CMI) such as schizophrenia and the neurodegenerative disorders Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease can be characterized by protein mis-assembly and aggregation. Neuronal proteinopathies affect millions of people globally and there is a high degree of unmet clinical need. Mechanisms that protect against protein aggregation are therefore therapeutically interesting and our aim is to modulate targets, important in a range of human neurodegenerative diseases, to reduce the accumulation of protein aggregates.

The proteasome activator PA28α has proven protective effects against proteinopathy during embryonic development and potentially therapeutic benefits later in life. Recent studies have identified a novel chaperone-like function associated with PA28α (demonstrated by enhanced aggregation prevention in hippocampal extracts) and improved cognitive function (memory and learning) in old mice. These novel findings highlight PA28α as an interesting therapeutic candidate in neurodegenerative research.

We aim to determine if increasing levels of neuronal PA28α can counteract the development of CMI and neurodegenerative disorders in established mouse models of human disease. Extensive biochemical, histological and phenotypic analysis will be used to determine whether increased PA28α is protective against (and conversely whether a decrease in protein levels accelerates) protein aggregation, leading to clinical benefit.

Who is taking part in the study?

John Wiseman, Associate Director at Discovery Sciences, Innovative Medicines, AstraZeneca R&D, Gothenburg, Sweden.

Which patient groups will benefit from the research and how?

Patients with neurodegenerative disorders.