Michael J. Fox Foundation grant awarded to UCSD Parkinson's researcher

June 21, 2001

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research has awarded one of its first-ever grants to UCSD for studies of a naturally occurring protein that has potential as a new Parkinson's disease therapy.

Eliezer Masliah, M.D., UCSD professor of neurosciences and pathology, received one of 15 $100,000 grants awarded by the Fox Foundation to researchers pursuing a cure for the debilitating neurological disorder that affects 1.5 million Americans and one in 100 adults over age 60.

Studies have shown that abnormal accumulation of proteins called alpha-synuclein (a-synuclein) are centrally involved in Parkinson's disease. A-synuclein is a major component of Lewy bodies, which are an abnormal dense mass of proteins called aggregates, found in the dying neuron cells of Parkinson's patients.

Masliah's lab was the first to identify and clone human a-synuclein in 1991. When mutations occur in a-synuclein, or when environmental toxins trigger changes in its characteristics, the protein aggregates, or forms Lewy body clogs within the brain.

Recently, Masliah's team identified a protein similar to a-synuclein, but with the ability to block the development of Lewy bodies, rather than form them. Called beta-synuclein (b-synuclein), this naturally occurring protein was first studied in test tubes. Scientists added b-synuclein to a-synuclein protein that had formed aggregates, and watched as the aggregates untangled. In preliminary animal studies, Masliah developed one group of mice with over-expressed a-synuclein and another group with large amounts of b-synuclein. The a-synuclein mice developed Lewy bodies in their brains while the b-synuclein group did not. When the two groups were crossbred, their offspring were protected from developing brain Lewy bodies.

Over the next six months, studies in mice will continue, Masliah says. The researchers have identified the portion of the b-synuclein molecule that blocks aggregation and are investigating the development of a way to deliver b-synuclein by gene therapy into the brain. They are also trying to develop a chemical compound structurally similar to the naturally occurring b-synuclein protein. Theoretically, the chemical compound could be taken as oral medication to untangle Lewy bodies in the brain. Both of these methods will be tested over the next months to years in mice.

The recently formed Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research raised $1.5 million for its first round of grants. The organization's literature notes that it has moved "aggressively to identify the most promising research and raise the funds to assure that the best research is supported..."

Additional institutions receiving the first Fox Foundation grants were Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Rutgers University, Baylor College of Medicine, Rush University, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, University of Toronto, University of Florida College of Medicine, Clinica Universitaria de Navarra, Zygogen LLc, University of Minnesota, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
-end-


University of California - San Diego

Related Brain Articles from Brightsurf:

Glioblastoma nanomedicine crosses into brain in mice, eradicates recurring brain cancer
A new synthetic protein nanoparticle capable of slipping past the nearly impermeable blood-brain barrier in mice could deliver cancer-killing drugs directly to malignant brain tumors, new research from the University of Michigan shows.

Children with asymptomatic brain bleeds as newborns show normal brain development at age 2
A study by UNC researchers finds that neurodevelopmental scores and gray matter volumes at age two years did not differ between children who had MRI-confirmed asymptomatic subdural hemorrhages when they were neonates, compared to children with no history of subdural hemorrhage.

New model of human brain 'conversations' could inform research on brain disease, cognition
A team of Indiana University neuroscientists has built a new model of human brain networks that sheds light on how the brain functions.

Human brain size gene triggers bigger brain in monkeys
Dresden and Japanese researchers show that a human-specific gene causes a larger neocortex in the common marmoset, a non-human primate.

Unique insight into development of the human brain: Model of the early embryonic brain
Stem cell researchers from the University of Copenhagen have designed a model of an early embryonic brain.

An optical brain-to-brain interface supports information exchange for locomotion control
Chinese researchers established an optical BtBI that supports rapid information transmission for precise locomotion control, thus providing a proof-of-principle demonstration of fast BtBI for real-time behavioral control.

Transplanting human nerve cells into a mouse brain reveals how they wire into brain circuits
A team of researchers led by Pierre Vanderhaeghen and Vincent Bonin (VIB-KU Leuven, Université libre de Bruxelles and NERF) showed how human nerve cells can develop at their own pace, and form highly precise connections with the surrounding mouse brain cells.

Brain scans reveal how the human brain compensates when one hemisphere is removed
Researchers studying six adults who had one of their brain hemispheres removed during childhood to reduce epileptic seizures found that the remaining half of the brain formed unusually strong connections between different functional brain networks, which potentially help the body to function as if the brain were intact.

Alcohol byproduct contributes to brain chemistry changes in specific brain regions
Study of mouse models provides clear implications for new targets to treat alcohol use disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome.

Scientists predict the areas of the brain to stimulate transitions between different brain states
Using a computer model of the brain, Gustavo Deco, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, and Josephine Cruzat, a member of his team, together with a group of international collaborators, have developed an innovative method published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Sept.

Read More: Brain News and Brain Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.