#IDIBELLseminars: Aging, neuromelanin and neuronal vulnerability in Parkinson’s disease

Miquel Vila


Hosted by Dr. Francisco Ciruela Alférez – Neuropharmacology and pain group



Sala Graus – UB


The cause and mechanisms of neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease (PD) remain unknown, thereby precluding the development of disease-modifying therapies for this disabling, currently incurable disorder. While in the last 25 years PD research has mostly focused on alpha-synuclein, a protein that abnormally accumulates in PD brains, this has not yet translated into any significant therapeutic or diagnostic clinical application. In this context, neurons that contain high levels of neuromelanin, a brain pigment that normally accumulates with age, have long been established as preferentially vulnerable to degeneration in PD. However, the potential contribution of this pigment to PD pathogenesis has remained virtually unknown because, in contrast to humans, most animal species such as rodents lack this brain pigment. We have recently developed the first in vivo rodent model mimicking age-dependent human brain pigmentation, thereby allowing us to assess for the first time the potential effects of progressive neuromelanin accumulation in vivo.

Hosted by Dr. Francisco Ciruela Alférez – Neuropharmacology and pain group


Miquel Vila is the group leader of the Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Group at the Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR), devoted to the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms of neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease. He received his medical degree from the University of Barcelona and a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Paris 6. He then worked at Columbia University in New York before moving back to Barcelona as an ICREA Professor to develop a new research group on neurodegeneration at VHIR. The group is now part of the Center for Networked Biomedical Research on Neurodegenerative Diseases (CIBERNED) and of the newly established Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s Collaborative Research Network (ASAP-CRN), from which he received an $11M research grant that he coordinates.

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