Researchers in Israel have recently published an interesting new study which provides both a useful resource and a novel insight about a drug that The Cure Parkinson's Trust is clinically testing in people with Parkinson's. The scientists were interested in circular RNAs (or circRNAs). RNA is a copy of DNA that is used to make protein in cells in the body. CircRNAs are - as the name suggests - circles of RNA that are not used to make protein, but do help regulate the biological activity of cells.

The researchers from Israel wanted to explore the different types and levels of circRNAs in three different areas of the Parkinsonian brain to see if they might play a role in the condition. One of the brain areas explored was the substantia nigra which is where dopamine producing nerve cells or neurons reside - an area badly affected by Parkinson's.

In their results, the scientists found that the total amount of circRNAs in the substantia nigra of people with Parkinson's was reduced, but the levels of one particular circRNA called CircSLC8A1 were very high. The investigators also found that levels of CircSLC8A1 (but not other circRNAs) increased in cells grown in the lab when those cells were exposed to a nerve toxin suggesting that CircSLC8A1 might be involved in the stress response of cells brought on by illness. As the cells became more stressed the levels of CircSLC8A1 increased and as cells recovered the CircSLC8A1 levels reduced.

The scientists then found that treating the stressed cells with the cholesterol-reducing drug, simvastatin, reduced the high levels of CircSLC8A1 in cells and this in turn brought about beneficial affects within the cells. This new result for simvastatin is particularly interesting for CPT as we have been supporting a clinical trial called PD-STAT, which has evaluated the disease-modifying potential of the cholesterol reducing drug simvastatin in people with Parkinson's.  The PD-STAT study is now finished and the results of the trial will be announced later this year.

To read the study in more detail: https://www.embopress.org/doi/full/10.15252/emmm.201911942