MSU researchers awarded grant to help silence Parkinson’s disease

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Contact(s): College of Human Medicine

Two Michigan State University neuroscience researchers have received a $165,000 grant from the Parkinson's Disease Foundation to help develop new therapeutic treatments for this chronic, progressive brain disorder. The disease affects nearly one million people in the United States and seven to 10 million people worldwide.

Professor Kathy Steece-Collier and assistant professor Fredric P. Manfredsson, both in the Department of Translational Science & Molecular Medicine in the College of Human Medicine, are investigating whether “silencing” the genetic machinery of specific nerve cells in the brain could prevent the development of abnormal involuntary movements associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Known as levodopa-induced dyskinesias, or LIDs, this medical issue is typically a side effect from a specific medication used to treat motor symptoms of the disease. Currently, there are no effective clinical treatment options for LIDs, which are often painful and disabling, interfering with daily activities.

Work in Steece-Collier’s lab has provided evidence that excess activity of calcium channels, specifically referred to as CaV1.3, on nerve cells may be involved in the development of these involuntary movements.

In addition, Manfredsson’s research team has discovered that by reengineering certain viruses, they can actually stop the nerve cells from making these calcium channels and the viruses themselves, are unable to replicate and pose any danger to the treated individual.

“We can actually silence the genes in nerve cells by using these viruses to infect the nerve cell,” Manfredsson said.

Steece-Collier also added that by determining whether CaV1.3 channels are an effective target to stop the involuntary movements, their research can provide critical scientific rationale that could be useful in designing clinical trials of current and new-generation calcium channel blocking drugs.

“The drugs would specifically be for preventing LIDs, with the overall potential of improving the quality of life for the millions of Parkinson’s disease patients worldwide,” she said.

MSU is among the more than 30 investigator-initiated research projects recently chosen to receive a portion of $1.3 million in funding to help solve, treat and end Parkinson’s disease.

“Drs. Steece-Collier and Manfredsson are doing cutting-edge research aimed at improving the lives of Parkinson’s disease patients,” said James Galligan, professor and director of MSU’s Neuroscience Program. “Their project will help to develop new approaches to reducing the severity of side effects and their work will continue to put MSU at the forefront of neuroscience research of the disease.”

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