Model Systems for the Study of Neuromelanin

During the Spring semester of 2013, my research project was to develop two model systems for the study of neuromelanin. The first was polymerized dopamine, the second was rat substantia nigra cells that were treated with l-DOPA which the neurons used to synthesize neuromelanin. I presented this Poster (4MB) at GGC’s STaRS event.

Absence of pigmentation (neuromelanin) due to the death of substantia nigra cells is one of the hallmarks of Parkinson’s Disease. The model systems will be used to assess binding constants for substances potentially toxic to neurons, such as pesticides, MPP+, heavy metals, etc. Another possibility is competitive binding wherein one substance could bind more tightly in the neuromelanin than a previous substance, resulting in the liberation of the first substance and its accompanying toxicity to neighboring cells.

IMG_4397 - Version 2
Substantia nigra neurons before being treated with l-DOPA.
Substantia nigra neurons with neuromelanin
Substantia nigra neurons after addition of l-DOPA for five days. Dark spots in the cells are visible neuromelanin.