Woman-scientist leads study on Parkinson’s disease

A “first of its kind” data system for cancer is being established in the country by a 23-year-old Filipina scientist and her team of researchers.

Joji Marie Teves, a molecular and cellular biologist, and her project team is working to create the very first Philippine Cancer-Phenome Biobanking System.

Teves said they study tissues from cancer-diagnosed patients in order to explain the association of endocrine disruptors, a group of chemicals known to cause cancer, with cancer specifically found on Filipinos.

“We want to create public awareness that there are certain cancer-causing chemicals present on materials we interact with on a daily basis that most people don’t know,” she added.

With their research results, they aim to convince lawmakers to implement laws to properly identify, label and even ban certain chemicals to prevent exposure to the public.

The system will facilitate a long-term storage of patient information that will give medical professionals and researchers easy access to these relevant information without compromising patient confidentiality.

It will also establish an infrastructure that will serve as a model for collecting patient information and human specimens in the country.

“In the bigger picture, we aim to have a representation of a Filipino cell line with unique genetic and molecular characteristics which we can present to the world,” she said.

The project is funded by the Philippine-California Advanced Research Institutes through the Institute for Health Innovation and Translational Medicide and the University of the Philippines-Diliman Institute of Biology.

Prior to this, Teves was a scholar of United States Agency for International Development’s Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for Development (Stride) Program.

Under the scholarship, she finished a Professional Science Master in Applied Biosciences-Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Arizona in March 2017.

Teves admitted that although she graduated at the Visayas State University with a degree in Biotechnology, her initial job was under a government agency not related to science.

“Stride gave me a career to go back to science—to explore different innovations and solutions in the US and translate them into practical applications here in the country,” she said.

During her research internship, she and her colleagues conducted a translational study on Parkinson’s disease that aimed to develop a platform that will help in its diagnosis.

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic age-related brain disorder affecting roughly 6.5 million people worldwide. Although several cases of the disorder have been found to have genetic linkage, more than 90 percent of cases are considered sporadic or of unknown cause.

Teves said a lot about this disorder is not known yet. To diagnose it, a person has to donate his brain and have it opened up before they can confirm it is Parkinson’s disease.

“There really is no direct treatment for this disorder. There are only drugs to help manage it,” she added. However, because of recent developments in the study of Parkinson’s disease, they began researching biomarkers through patient-specific skin specimens.

A biomarker refers to measurable substances in a living body whose presence can be an indication of a disease or infection.

“The unique characteristic of our research is that it is very unconventional for a brain disorder to be studied through skin tissues,” Teves said.

Using the data gathered from the skin fibers, the research provided an easily accessible model that can be used as a sample source for future studies on the disorder.

Their research findings were published recently on Frontiers, an open-access science platform that features innovations and new developments in technology.

-Written by Nikko L. Bajado & Rick Jezriel P. Zamora in BusinessMirror.  See original article link here.