LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 4, 2015) — Two University of Kentucky researchers will present evidence supporting a promising new therapy for Parkinson’s disease as part of a showcase of scientific research and innovation during the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) Parkinson’s Disease Therapeutics Conference.
University of Kentucky College of Medicine professor Greg Gerhardt and associate professor Richard Grondin will today present “Therapeutic Development of siRNA Targeting Alpha-Synuclein” during the MJFF Parkinson’s Disease Therapeutics Conference in New York. The research studies whether targeting the alpha-synuclein protein is a safe approach to combating Parkinson’s disease. Gerhardt and Grondin were invited to participate in the poster presentation session, which highlights academic and industry research supported by the MJFF.
Gerhardt’s research looks at the mechanisms within the neuron that cause Parkinson’s disease. For a cell to make a protein, a large molecule that performs a specific function for the cell, DNA in the cell’s genome has to be transcribed into messenger RNA (mRNA) so it can then be translated into protein. The siRNAs target mRNAs to prevent these mRNAs from being translated into protein.
Researchers have found the protein alpha-synuclein seems to be involved in Parkinson’s disease progression. Gerhardt’s group developed a siRNA designed to target alpha-synuclein mRNA so it cannot be translated into protein. The results of the study show that this siRNA can interfere with alpha-synuclein production without being toxic to the brain, which means siRNA might be a promising candidate as a future Parkinson’s disease therapy.
Gerhardt serves as a professor of anatomy and neurobiology, neurology, psychiatry, and electrical engineering. He is also a member of the Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center faculty at the University of Kentucky.
The Parkinson’s Disease Therapeutics Conference is the Michael J. Fox Foundation’s annual conference and is the only conference in the world solely dedicated to the development of therapeutics for Parkinson’s disease.