GVSU receives $500k grant to research cure for Parkinson’s disease


Daisy Bernstein

Date: 05.01.2018

A team of researchers, including Grand Valley State University, have received a $500,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to research a possible cure for Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a nervous system disorder characterized by body tremors, stiffness, slow movement, and changes in speech and writing abilities. Many of these symptoms are caused by the disease breaking down nerve cells in the brain that produce the chemical dopamine.

Researchers at GVSU, Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, and Rush University in Chicago will be testing a modified protein, known as PM-Nato3, to see if it can protect the dopamine-producing cells from the disease.

“PM-Nato3 can drive the expression of many factors that have been shown to protect dopamine neurons from disease,” said Merritt DeLano-Taylor, GVSU associate professor of biomedical sciences and one of the three principal investigators on the research team.

“It may be a useful tool because instead of relying on a single factor to protect the neurons, we may be able to activate an armada of these factors, increasing the likelihood of survival and therapeutic benefit.”

The team will be using human cells and animal models to see the effects of PM-Nato3. The patent-pending technology that will be used in the research was developed by Grand Valley alumni Nicholas Huisingh, Jordan Straight, Daniel Doyle, and Douglas Peterson while they were undergraduate students.

DeLano-Taylor said his team hopes that the results of the research will lead to a therapeutic tool to help people suffering from Parkinson’s. In 2015, the disease affected 6.2 million people and resulted in about 117,400 deaths globally. DeLano-Taylor said the cost of the disease in the United States is in excess of $25 billion per year.

He also said he hopes his work helps engage his students.

“Those core directives, followed with careful practice of the scientific method, will lead to personal and vocational discovery for the students and scientific discovery for the field of neuroscience,” he said. “There is no better way to learn then by doing, and Grand Valley is special because our students do this kind of work every day.”

This material was created specially for WorldHealthNews project by Daisy Bernstein.

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