Active collaboration: facilitated by DPUK, scientists at the University of Oxford are testing drugs developed by AstraZeneca to see if they can be used to target a range of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.
The Oxford-based scientists have developed induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) – stem cells developed from human skin or blood samlples – and have undertaken a complex range of processes known as 'differentiation' to cause them to become various types of brain cells. This has enabled them to produce living 'disease-in-a-dish' models which they can study very closely and safely outside the human brain.
Compounds and drugs developed by the collaborating industry companies – AstraZeneca – are then tested on these models in order to determine if they might have potential as part of treatment which slows or prevents the development of the disease.
The pharmaceutical industry develops thousands of compounds and drugs every year. When the trials are successful, the drug is developed and refined and ultimately deployed in a treatment. However, there are many unsuccessful trials and as a consequence, industry companies hold entire libraries of new drugs and compounds that are not tested to their full potential. This innovative collaboration is using disease-in-a-dish models to shed new light on new avenues for treatment.