Searching for Parkinson
Name: Ingrid Strömberg
Attempts to cure Parkinson\'s disease by transplanting dopamine neurons directly into the brain have been discontinued. The results have not met expectations. The question is why.
"When dopamine cells are transplanted, they grow and everything looks good," says Ingrid Strömberg, "but only a fraction of the transplanted neurons grows into the host brain. We are trying to find out why, mainly by studying how the dopamine system develops at the foetal stage."
She is unobtrusive and does not like to talk about herself. Although she talks intensively and lively about Parkinson\'s disease and her research on its causes, a project that has followed her since her doctoral studies.
Parkinson\'s disease disrupts motor activity with tremor and stiffness as a result. It is caused by degeneration of dopamine neurons, which results in a lack of dopamine. The onset of the disease commonly occurs between the ages of 55 and 60. Approximately 2,000 people are afflicted every year in Sweden.
In theory, transplants appears promising as a cure. The disease can be treated by pharmaceuticals, but not directly with dopamine because it cannot pass the blood-brain barrier and reach the brain. Instead, the precursor, L-dopa (levodopa), is administered, which then converts into dopamine - a treatment for which Arvid Carlsson of Göteborg won the Nobel Prize in 2000. The problem is, however, that the doses must be gradually increased. Eventually, side-effects appear, mostly as involuntary movements, dyskinesia, and the treatment loses its effectiveness. Therefore, the researchers had high hopes of being able to place a dopamine source directly in the brain.
Ingrid Strömberg\'s group has found that some of the brain\'s supporting cells, the astroglia, appear to be of major significance in the nerve fiber guiding process and they are now studying the interaction between the astrocytes and the dopamine cells. Another track is the question as to why a person develops Parkinson\'s disease. How is a fully developed brain damaged like this?
"On this front, we have found that food is significant. Antioxidants in particular have a positive effect and we now give the test animals blueberry extract.
Ingrid Strömberg became a Professor at the Department for Histology with Cell Biology in 2002 and at the time moved from the Karolinska Institute in Solna, Sweden. In the unavoidable comparison, she thinks that Umeå University has a broader and more open atmosphere while KI is larger and thereby more eventful.
"Umeå is a bit remote, that fact is inescapable, but on the other hand, Karolinska is actually just a faculty of medicine - there are openings here for collaborations with other disciplines."
One example is of course the strong field of research called the Nervous System. Ingrid is the chairperson of the steering committee that gathers Umeå\'s top researchers in several specialities such as: strokes, ALS, dementia, motor hand control, nerve transplants and Parkinson\'s disease.
Name: Ingrid Strömberg
Favourite researcher: Two strong women: Rita Levi-Montalcini, Nobel prize winner in physiology (medicine) 1986, and Ann Graybiel, Professor of Neuroscience at MIT, USA.
Best in her record collection: All types of opera
Likes to eat: Fish
Favourite place: Where ever my suitcase is; I like to travel