Cell biology, neurodegenerative disease, Parkinsons Disease

Dr Andrea Bugarcic

Andrea is a cell biologist with a passion for unravelling the mysteries of infectious and neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Parkinson’s Disease. Her journey in science has been nothing short of remarkable. 

From uncovering the first viral enterotoxin secreted by rotavirus-infected cells to delving into structural biology investigations of viral and receptor proteins, Andrea’s work has been pivotal. Her focus on understanding cellular and molecular pathways abnormalities in Parkinson’s Disease has shed light on the complexities of this condition. 

However, Andrea realized that while comprehending these abnormal cellular processes are crucial for effective treatment, they are often multifactorial and complex challenges that modern pharmacological approaches struggle to address. 

Driven by a quest for answers, Andrea found herself drawn to the world of herbal medicine. She was intrigued by the complexity of herbs and their preparations in the context of specific diseases. This intersection of traditional wisdom and contemporary clinical practice sparked a new direction in her research. 

Now, Andrea is forging a research pathway where tradition, contemporary practice, and science harmoniously coexist. Her goal? To develop novel approaches to disease that integrate the best of both worlds. 

With over 70,000 plants used medicinally worldwide and traditional medicine playing a significant role in over 80% of countries, the potential to merge clinical knowledge, patient outcomes, traditional wisdom, and scientific practices in herbal medicine is vast. 

Cell biology, neurodegenerative disease, Parkinsons Disease

We need to start aligning inherent complexity of the cellular disease with chemical complexity of plants – bringing together clinical experience, traditional wisdom and rigorous scientific approach will allow us just that.” 

Precision Herbal Medicine in Parkinson’s Disease 

Parkinson's Disease (PD) is a complex and challenging neurodegenerative condition with limited treatment choices available. The Global Burden of Disease study predicts that PD will affect around 13 million people worldwide by 2040. In Australia alone, over 100,000 individuals are affected by PD, with approximately 32 new cases being identified every day. 

PD primarily manifests through the decline and loss of specific brain cells responsible for dopamine production, leading to symptoms like tremors, as well as emotional and cognitive issues ranging from anxiety and depression to varying degrees of cognitive impairment. 

There are two main types of PD: familial and sporadic. Both involve genetic factors, either through mutations (familial) or changes in gene expression (sporadic), which contribute to our understanding of the disease's mechanisms, such as the formation of abnormal protein clumps called Lewy bodies and the loss of dopamine-producing cells. 

With few conventional treatment options available, many PD patients explore alternative therapies to manage their symptoms, including dietary adjustments and the use of supplements or natural substances like cannabis and psychedelic mushrooms. While some patients report positive effects from these substances, research into their specific benefits and safe usage for PD remains limited. 

Andrea’s team are currently focusing on identifying the potential benefits of various strains and species of Psilocybe mushrooms on familial PD-linked mutations. This project aims to expand into other herbal remedies like Mucuna, with the eventual goal of conducting clinical trials tailored to specific patient groups. Initial findings suggest a promising new avenue for precision medicine in the use of herbal treatments for PD. 

Donate to the Centre to help us continue to support Andrea on her journey to uncover the impact of herbal medicine on human health. With your support we can explore the rich tapestry of traditional wisdom and modern science to pave the way for innovative solutions in healthcare. 

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