$12.5m enables new research approach to Parkinson’s

University leads international multi-institutional research effort to create new insights into the genetics of what determines the development and progression of Parkinson’s disease.

New research into the genetic basis of Parkinson’s disease will be led by the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, thanks to a $(AU)12.5m grant administered by the Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s (ASAP) initiative. ASAP’s implementation partner The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research issued the grant.

“The outcomes of this research promise to provide new insights into the genetics of what determines the development and progression of Parkinson’s disease, “said Professor Deniz Kirik, Faculty of Medicine Lund, University who will be the lead investigator on the research project for the University of Sydney as an Honorary Professor for the duration of the research.

ASAP seeks to support international, multidisciplinary, multi-institutional research teams to address key knowledge gaps in the basic disease mechanisms that contribute to Parkinson’s. The initiative is focused on understanding the dynamics of Parkinson’s from its earliest stages and before it presents as a fully-recognisable condition.

The research being funded is focused on how mutations and/or deletions in specific genes result in a high probability of developing Parkinson’s disease (PD), suggesting their critical role in the health and survival of specific brain cells.

“Curiously, it is not yet clear how specific types of brain cells are functionally impacted by genetic mutations that result in the neuronal loss defining Parkinson’s. The research supported by this grant will address that,” said Professor Kirik.

Previously, affected cells have mainly been examined as cultured cells in petri dishes but this project will focus on using cells from patients with Parkinson’s to study them in the environment of the living mouse brain. This is a completely new way of exploring the cellular components and underlying biology of the disease. The researchers will then explore how gene editing could address the underlying basis of the disease.

Curiously, it is not yet clear how specific types of brain cells are functionally impacted by genetic mutations that result in the neuronal loss defining Parkinson’s. The research supported by this grant will address that.

Professor Deniz Kirik
Professor Glenda Halliday

Professor Glenda Halliday, Brain and Mind Centre

“This generous grant allows Professor Kirik to build new research capabilities in neuronal transplantation at the University of Sydney, and collaborate on genomics and human neural stem cells with myself and Professor Carolyn Sue from the Kolling Institute,” said Professor Glenda Halliday, one of the lead researchers from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Medicine and Health and member of the University’s Brain and Mind Centre.

“It will also build on Professor Kirik’s strong collaborations with Professor Claire Parish and Associate Professor Lachlan Thompson at the Florey Institute in Melbourne, and Jennifer Johnson at NysnBio in California.”

Professor Sue, Executive Director, Professor and Director of Neurogenetics, Kolling Institute, University of Sydney said: “We have world- leading expertise in this field and have been selected to take part after a worldwide search for innovative programs to speed up the search for new treatments for Parkinson’s disease. The program illustrates the importance of our translational research at the Kolling Institute, where we can directly incorporate scientific breakthroughs to improve clinical care for our patients.”

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