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Animal Models of Parkinson's Disease


Rodent Models

  • Mouse (Mus musculus)

The Jackson Laboratory-Parkinson's Disease Mouse Model Resource-The Repository distributes Parkinson’s disease models that are useful for the study of the basic pathophysiology of PD, and for testing new therapies.

My Mouse.Org - The goal of mymouse.org is to accelerate discovery of gene function and the development of novel mutant mouse models of disease by linking laboratories actively screening for specific phenotypes, and to researchers with genetically defined mouse mutants available for study.

NIH Mutant Mouse Regional Resource Centers (MMRRC) - A repository of mouse stocks and ES cell line collections, supported by the NIH, serving the world-wide genetics and biomedical research community for the benefit of human health.

GENSAT (Gene Expression Nervous System Atlas) - The GENSAT project, funded by NINDS, generates transgenic mouse lines that express reporter proteins or DNA recombinases in specific neural and glial cells as tools for neuroscience research.

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  • Rat (Rattus norvegicus)

Rat Genome Database - The Rat Genome Database is a collaborative effort between leading research institutions involved in rat genetic and genomic research.

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Other Vertebrate Models

  • Zebrafish (Danio rerio)

The zebrafish (Danio rerio), widely utilized as a model organism for the study of development, has emerged as an attractive vertebrate model for human diseases including Parkinson’s disease (PD).  Characteristics of zebrafish, which include their relatively small size (3-4 cm adult size), short generation time (3 months), external development, transparent appearance until early adulthood and both genetic and anatomical correlations with the human central nervous system (CNS), facilitates the amenability of this animal model to the study of human CNS diseases through the rapid in vivo screening of neuroprotective compounds.

Dopaminergic (DA) neurons, whose specific loss in the substantia nigra underlies the neuropathology in PD, has been well characterized in the zebrafish.  Administration of toxins, including 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) and 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP), have been shown to induce DA neuron cell loss in several animal models including the zebrafish.  These studies indicate that the zebrafish can be utilized as an effective animal model to elucidate the genetic pathways that underlie PD, determine the downstream effects of environmental toxins and identify new pharmacological strategies that may mitigate PD-associated neurodegeneration.

Trans-NIH Zebrafish Initiative - The NIH Model Organisms for Biomedical Research web site provides information about national and international activities and major resources that are being developed to facilitate biomedical research using the zebrafish as a model organism.

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Invertebrate Models

  •  Fruit Fly (Drosophila melanogaster)

The use of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as an animal model imparts many advantages for studying the molecular and cellular mechanisms of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) due to its short life span (30 days), small size (2.5 mm), short generation time (10 days), large number of progeny, high degree of conserved biological pathways due to comparable fly and human genomes and well-defined genetic & pharmacological techniques.  The completion of sequencing the Drosophila genome, expanding collection of mutant strains, development of RNA-interference technologies & targeted gene disruption techniques and transcriptional & proteome profiling studies all facilitated the amenability of the fly animal model to the study of PD. A number of research findings indicate that the Drosophila system has enormous potential to gain a greater mechanistic understanding of PD through the identification of genes involved in familial PD, environmental agents involved in sporadic PD and the search of novel genes, pathways and compounds that may prevent PD pathogenesis. 

Trans-NIH Fly Initiative - The NIH Model Organisms for Biomedical Research web site provides information about national and international activities and major resources that are being developed to facilitate biomedical research using the fruit fly as a model organism.

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  • Round Worm  (Caenorhabditis elegans)

The roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans represents a valuable animal model system to study Parkinson’s disease (PD) due to the high conservation of genetic and molecular pathways from invertebrates to mammalians, short generation time, short life span of 2-3 weeks, high progeny output and the well-defined morphology of 959 somatic cells, including 302 neuronal cells, their synaptic connections and eight bilaterally-arranged dopaminergic (DA) neurons. High-throughput screens utilizing genetic, RNAi and chemical modifiers can be employed in C. elegans to mitigate the selective loss of DA cells that underlie neurodegeneration in PD1. Environmental insults and drug compounds that increase the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) has been shown to induce DA degeneration in several animal models, including the roundworm. Though there is no homolog in C. elegans for alpha-synuclein, the molecular mechanisms of PD pathology can be nevertheless be studied in C. elegans genetic modifier screens since the cellular pathways induced by protein folding stress and aggregation are strongly conserved between invertebrates and mammalians. A number of studies strongly indicate that C. elegans represents a valuable disease model for the identification of new genetic pathway components and pharmacological targets that can potentially ameliorate PD-related neurodegeneration.

Trans-NIH C. Elegans Initiative - The NIH Model Organisms for Biomedical Research web site provides information about national and international activities and major resources that are being developed to facilitate biomedical research using the nematode as a model organism.

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Last updated December 23, 2013