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Research Opens New Door to Understanding Parkinson's Disease!

February 15, 2017

Parkinson's disease is the most common movement disorder and approximately one million people in the U.S. are living with the disease. Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive movement disorder caused by the death of selective neurons in the brain. It is characterized by the presence of protein aggregates (protein clumps) inside neurons, enriched in the protein α-synuclein, and although it is thought that the aggregation of α-synuclein causes neurons to die it is still unknown which form of this protein is neurotoxic.

Simon Geir Møller, Ph.D., Senior Vice Provost, who led a team of seventeen scientists, from New York University Langone Medical Center, York College, Center for Mitochondrial Medicine and Neurogenetics, The Norwegian Center for Movement and St. John's University, have shown that α-synuclein exists as defined, subcellular-specific species that change characteristics in response to oxidative stress in neurons and in response to Parkinson’s disease pathogenesis in human cerebellum and frontal cortex. Using high-performance liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry they further identified a Parkinson’s disease specific α-synuclein species in human brain tissue which can be recapitulated in Parkinson’s disease neuronal cell models. The study was recently published in Molecular Neurobiology and represents the first report demonstrating Parkinson's disease-specific α-synuclein species in human brains. The characterization of subcellular-specific α-synuclein features in Parkinson's disease allows for the identification of neurotoxic α-synuclein species, which represent prime targets in therapeutic intervention strategies.

"This project was very challenging, but the hard work and dedication of the entire team, and in particular the four Ph.D. students in my laboratory at St. John's University, made it a success," said Dr. Møller.