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CodeLink Surviving, Helps Researchers Understand Parkinson s Disease

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Using the long-neglected CodeLink microarray developed by Amersham, researchers at the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY last month published research identifying gene expression changes underlying neuron malfunction and death related to Parkinson’s disease.

In mouse studies, the University of Rochester researchers administered the neurotoxicant 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine, which is often used to trigger dopminergic neuron degradation in studies of mice and non-human primates. MPTP is known to cause Parkinson’s in humans, but the sequence of events is not completely understood.

Using CodeLink microarray analysis and integrative data mining following MPTP treatment, the investigators uncovered “pathways implicated in the progression of changes” in dopaminergic neurons.

Both Amersham and the CodeLink array platform are now part of GE Healthcare, a division of the giant conglomerate General Electric, which recently moved the platform to its Molecular Diagnostics division with the intention of expanding the platform’s use in the US initially, and globally in the future, a GE Healthcare spokesperson told Pharmacogenomics Reporter earlier this month [see 9/2/2004 PGx Reporter].

“Our objective with the CodeLink platform is to use the characterization of disease pathways to develop early stage molecular diagnostics for a range of diseases, including Parkinson’s and enable the eventual development of better targeted therapeutics,” said Chockalingam Palaniappan, head of research and development of Molecular Diagnostics at GE Healthcare.

In the run up to acquiring Amersham, GE emphasized the utility of Amersham Health, and the imaging chemistries that would complement its own imaging instruments, while paying less attention to Biosciences, which included CodeLink. And although the CodeLink product line was lauded for its accuracy and quality, it has so far not measurably cut into the dominant share of the market held by Affymetrix, or by No. 2 microarray maker Agilent Technologies.

Any doubts the pharmacogenomics industry had about the fate of the division and its products evaporated on April 8 when the acquisition closed: Following a conference call announcing the deal, Trevor Hawkins said that GE’s newly formed Healthcare unit would retain both Amersham units, and would continue to support their PGx technologies, including CodeLink [see 4/14/04 PGx Reporter]. That CodeLink was used for this study may be evidence that the platform is gaining from GE Healthcare’s backing.

More than one million people in North America suffer from Parkinson’s, a devastating neurological condition characterized by a series of neuron responses to a genetic, chemical, or other type of trigger, resulting in the eventual loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra. The clinical and neuropathological features of the disease are indistinguishable among different causes, a fact that suggests a “convergent, shared pathway” to Parkinson’s researchers.

— CW

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