WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WISH) — Scientists at Purdue University’s bioengineering lab are on their way to finding a possible cure for a disease affecting nearly 6 million people per year.
“Parkinson’s disease inhibits a person’s mobility,” Chongli Yuan, associate professor of chemical engineering at Purdue University, told News 8. “Patients lose control of their arms and legs. They can no longer move freely as they wish.”
Movement is only possible because of healthy cells housed in the brain. These cells are called neurons. Parkinson’s disease attacks cells that might otherwise be healthy. A number of things cause cells to die. However, once they’re gone, they’re gone forever.
To date, Parkinson’s disease is chronic, progressive and incurable. But Yuan and her team are determined to figure out a way to replace biological neurons by creating artificial ones. They call these cells synthetic neurons — cells designed to work just like the real ones.
Yuan has done a lot of research over the years about the molecular particles within cells. The idea behind synthetic neurons, she said, is building on the biology knowledge she’s learned, with the goal of copying its chemical makeup using man-made materials.
“Parkinson’s is a tough disease to fight. Not only for patients, but families suffer, too. Scientists, like those in our lab, are working very hard towards a smart, engineering solution. It will take some time, but we believe there is hope.”