Regenerative Medicine, Edinburgh
Tenure since 2014
Evaluation of novel Parkinson’s disease models generated by genome engineering of rodents
Parkinson’s disease is a common neurodegenerative disorder that results from neuronal loss particularly in dopaminergic brain regions, and the deposition of aggregates of alpha-synuclein protein in the form of Lewy Bodies. The most aggressive and early onset form of Parkinson’s has been shown to result from a G51D alpha-synuclein point mutation, and CRISPR/Cas9 technology has been used to generate this mutation in the rat. Thus a novel model of Parkinson’s disease has been generated, which may recapitulate the characteristic features of the human disease.
Rats heterozygous and homozygous for the G51D mutation are being analysed relative to wild-type (WT) controls by using non-invasive imaging, histopathology and behavioural testing. Positron emission tomography is being used to investigate brain dopaminergic metabolism, and images have been produced in WT rats which represent the first of their kind, in a genetic rat model of Parkinson’s at a Scottish University. Immunohistochemistry is being used to probe for neurodegeneration, and preliminary results have demonstrated alpha-synuclein aggregates in the midbrain and brainstem. These pathological abnormalities may impair the motor and non-motor functions of G51D rats, therefore behavioural testing is being used to identify abnormalities of movement and cognition, which are similar to those found in patients with Parkinson’s.
Photo: PET Imaging using the tracer [18F]FDOPA is used to analyse the integrity of the dopaminergic system in Parkinson’s models
After graduating in Clinical Veterinary Medicine (Distinction) from Edinburgh University, Victoria decided to draw on her interest in Veterinary Neurology and further her knowledge of Neuroscience at Imperial College (London). At Imperial Victoria discovered that she thoroughly enjoyed learning about Neuroscience, and as a result her career has been largely Neuroscience based.
When she was awarded an SFC funded Scholarship for study of MRes Integrative Mammalian Biology at Glasgow University this provided an ideal opportunity to combine her knowledge from both her undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Subsequently, she graduated from Glasgow University with MRes (Distinction) and gained experience in the research of spinal cord injury.