Unraveling the causes of Parkinson’s disease
Dorothea Pinotsi is a post doc researcher in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biology in Cambridge University.
Her research focuses on the development of new techniques that allow us to depict the biological nanostructures in real time, mostly regarding the neurodegeneration of the brain.
Her mother is a doctor, her father is an Astrophysics Professor in the University of Athens and her brother is a neuroscience researcher in MIT Boston.
She graduated fron the department of Electrical Engineering (National Technical School of Athens) in 2006, and got her PhD in Quantum Photonics in 2011 from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH).
In 2012 she got a scholarship from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) that gave her the chance to be the part of a scientific team in Cambridge that studied neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, through the developoment of new techniques in optical microscopy.
“Such findings change the way we look at the disease, because the damage to the neuron can happen when there is simply extra soluble protein present in the cell – it’s the excess amount of this protein that appears to cause the toxic effects that lead to the death of brain cells.”
Along with her team in March 2016, she was able to observe for the first time the exact moment in which proteins associated with Parkinson’s disease become toxic to brain cells. Researchers have used a non-invasive method of observing how the process leading to Parkinson’s disease takes place at the nanoscale, and identified the point in the process at which proteins in the brain become toxic, eventually leading to the death of brain cells. The results suggest that the same protein -alpha-synuclein- can either cause, or protect against, the toxic effects that lead to the death of brain cells, depending on the specific structural form it takes.