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  • Building a Genetic Map for Parkinson's
    Sonia Gandhi

Building a Genetic Map for Parkinson's

Jan 08 2021 Read 483 Times

A team from the Francis Crick Institute, UCL and Cambridge University has been awarded $7.7million to identify the genetic and biological factors that cause Parkinson’s disease.

The team, co-led by Sonia Gandhi, Group Leader of the Crick’s Neurodegeneration Biology laboratory, has received the grant from ASAP (Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s). This global research initiative funds teams that are working on understanding the basic mechanisms that contribute to the development and progression of Parkinson’s disease.

By using advanced imaging methods to look for single molecules, or oligomers, in the brain as indicators of early onset of the disease, the researchers aim to build a map of the cells first affected and the conditions progression. By looking at all the genes expressed in those specific cells, they will build a model that shows how genetic factors affect pathways that cause Parkinson’s. The aim is to then modify these genes in human stem cells, to better document and understand their effects over time.

There’s a huge gap of knowledge about the earliest stages of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s but if we can identify which cells start to lose function first, we could pinpoint the underlying cause," said Sonia Gandhi. 

“We’ve brought together a team of physical chemists, geneticists, data scientists and neurobiologists, who all have their own expertise and bring different techniques to the table. Through this powerful combination, we hope to be able to provide more detail about the underlying genetic causes of Parkinson’s and why some brain cells are susceptible to the disease while others remain resistant. 

“Critical to the ASAP initiative is building a unique resource, a Parkinson’s brain map and also making it freely available to others, which we hope will help the research community to develop new theories about the disease, explore its mechanisms and identify new therapeutic targets.”

Professor Nicholas Wood from UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, added: “We are delighted with this major investment in basic Parkinson’s research. We will use state of the art molecular microscopic tools to identify the cells that are principally affected by the disease and use detailed transcriptomic analyses to understand the molecular events that lead to neurodegeneration.”

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