UCSF researcher to study alpha-synuclein with $300K award
A UCSF neurologist/researcher just won a $300K award to study alpha-synuclein over the next three years. Alpha-synuclein "appears to cause the degeneration that occurs in Parkinsonâs and several related disorders, including Lewy Body Dementia and Multiple System Atrophy."
What follows is the UCSF press release about this. An excerpt: "Edwards is exploring how alpha-synuclein affects what goes on within cellular structures called mitochondria. Mitochondria have long been implicated in Parkinsonâs disease, but their precise role in the disease also remains poorly understood. Edwards is tracking ways in which synuclein influences the behavior of mitochondria to impact the survival and functioning of nerve cells."
Below the press release are some links to other UCSF info on PD. I pulled out a few excerpts on dopamine and synuclein.
First Appeared Tuesday, 23 December '08
Parkinsonâs Researcher Wins Prestigious Award to Study Diseaseâs Origins
UCSF neurologist Robert Edwards, MD, has won a prestigious research award from the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience. Edwards will receive $300,000 over three years to advance studies on Parkinsonâs disease. He is one of six recipientâs of the â2009 Neuroscience of Brain Disorders Awards,â out of a total of 143 scientists who competed for the prize.
Edwards will deepen his investigations of a protein called alpha-synuclein, which appears to cause the degeneration that occurs in Parkinsonâs and several related disorders, including Lewy Body Dementia and Multiple System Atrophy. These are now considered âsynucleinopathiesâ. Despite the fact that alpha-synuclein has a central role in these diseases, its actual contribution to pathogenesis -- and even its normal function -- remain very poorly understood, Edwards says.
âThis severely limits our ability to intervene therapeutically in the degenerative process. Although current treatment for Parkinsonâs is very effective at treating symptoms early in the disease, the underlying degenerative process continues inexorably to produce severe disability, and no current treatment addresses the underlying degeneration.â
Edwards is exploring how alpha-synuclein affects what goes on within cellular structures called mitochondria. Mitochondria have long been implicated in Parkinsonâs disease, but their precise role in the disease also remains poorly understood. Edwards is tracking ways in which synuclein influences the behavior of mitochondria to impact the survival and functioning of nerve cells.
In preliminary work, Edwards has found that alpha-synuclein affects specific properties of mitochondria.
âWe will use these observations as an entry point to understand how the function of alpha-synuclein contributes to its role in normal physiology and to its pathologic role in Parkinson's disease,â Edwards says. âThe results will indicate how alpha-synuclein affects mitochondria at both molecular and cellular levels. In the process, the work will help us to understand the physiological role of alpha-synuclein in neurons.
âBecause mitochondria appear to have an important role in Parkinson's, the results will suggest mechanisms that contribute to neural degeneration. What we learn might enable us to produce a long-sought animal model for the disease, as well as ways to prevent or arrest the degenerative process.â
Related Links: [Robin's note: you have to go online to see all the links as I've only provided two of them; go to the UCSF press release page]
The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience
Stopping Parkinsonâs: A Conversation with Rob Edwards, Physician-Scientist
UCSF Science CafÃ© Nov. 17, 2006
http://www.ucsf.edu/science-cafe/conver ... -scientist
One interesting excerpt: Dopamine is an internal toxin, but evolution has equipped us with protective measures that enable its benefits without causing serious consequences. âL-dopa does slow the progression of Parkinsonâs for five to 10 years, which is why we prescribe it,â Edwards adds. âBut there are some who wonder if the drug might be making the underlying disease worse.â
And: Finding answers to the Parkinsonâs riddle will take time, Edwards insists, knowing the frustration of patients who bristle at the slow pace of progress. He has high hopes that work on the nerve terminal protein known as synuclein, discovered by recent UCSF recruit Robert Nussbaum, MD, will speed things along. Nussbaum has noted that synuclein accumulates in large amounts in the brains of nearly everyone with Parkinsonâs disease. Synculein also hangs out at the synapses, the same part of the cell implicated in Edwardsâ other work on neurotransmitter release. And that could be a good thing, since Edwards can now use his experience from basic research on the synapse to help understand Parkinsonâs disease.
Genes and Environment in Parkinsonâs Disease: A Conversation with Robert Nussbaum
UCSF Science CafÃ©, Nov. 6, 2008
http://www.ucsf.edu/science-cafe/conver ... obert-nuss
UCSF Medical Center