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Sleep disorders and neurodegenerative diseases: the University of Milan leads the DEEPEN-iRBD project

To study subjects with sleep disorders and identify the molecular determinants that can lead to the development of neurodegenerative diseases characterised by the accumulation of the protein alpha-synuclein, collectively called synucleinopathies, including Parkinson's Disease. These are the goals of the research project DEEPEN-iRBD, "Prodromal DEtErminants for PhENoconversion of idiopathic RBD to alpha-synucleinopathies (PD, DLB and MSA)", funded under the Joint Transnational Call for proposals (2022) for 'Prevention in Personalised Medicine' of the European ERA PerMed programme.

The project will be led by teams of researchers from seven European groups coordinated by the Università Statale di Milano. The kick-off meeting of the project was held a few days ago at the Università Statale, in the presence of all partners.

The group led by Graziella Cappelletti, professor in the Department of Biosciences, and Elia Biganzoli, professor in the Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, will work in close collaboration with neurologists from the University of Luxembourg, cardiologists and psychologists from the Istituti Clinici Scientifici Maugeri in Milan, biologists from the University of Copenhagen and the CNRS-CEA in Paris, bioinformaticians from the University of Lund and clinical ethicists from the University of Zagreb. Italian and foreign patient associations were also involved in the project.

Patients with a sleep disorder have a high risk of developing Parkinson's disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, and Multiplke System Atrophy. Although they seem to show common features, i.e. alpha-synuclein aggregation and similar early clinical symptoms, these diseases evolve very differently in terms of both prognosis and treatment.

'The DEEPEN-iRBD consortium', explains Professor Graziella Cappelletti, 'has the ambitious aim of developing a pathogenicity model that can predict whether a subject will become ill and which synucleinopathy he or she will develop'.

In detail, the integration of existing data collected during the duration of the project will include advanced clinical analyses and determination of molecular markers in a broad spectrum of biological samples, from blood to skin biopsies and stem cell models.

Last but not least, the project will study the ethical and social aspects of screening people at an early stage of the disease and communicating the results of screening. This will make it possible to define a useful profile for the early risk stratification, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis of patients with sleep disorders, and to field, for the first time, a personalised medicine protocol applied to very debilitating neurodegenerative diseases such as synucleinopathies'.



prof. Graziella Cappelletti


Tel. +390250314752

07 March 2023
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