The Michael J. Fox Foundation Awards $2 Million to Shed Light on Role Of Lrrk2 and Alpha-Synuclein Genes in Parkinson's Disease
“Critical Challenges is uniquely designed to increase researcher focus on specific research challenges standing in the way of therapeutic progress,” said
LRRK2 and alpha-synuclein were selected for study under the first funding round of MJFF’s Critical Challenges in PD program following a survey of the field by the Foundation’s research staff and advisors. Alpha-synuclein was the first gene associated with PD, and pathological clumping of the protein product of the alpha-synuclein gene within cells of the brain represents a nearly universal thread linking multiple forms of Parkinson’s. The association of the LRRK2 gene to PD was discovered more recently but appears to contribute to a substantial number of Parkinson’s cases — as high as 40 percent in some ethnic groups.
Investigators awarded under the alpha-synuclein challenge will look at various ways in which disease-related modifications of alpha-synuclein might lead to toxic effects. Hilal Lashuel, PhD, of Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne in
The four investigators awarded under the LRRK2 challenge all seek to test whether an abnormal increase in LRRK2’s enzymatic function triggers toxicity. Chenjian Li, PhD, of Weill Medical College of Cornell University and Zhenyu Yue, PhD, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine are each developing mice genetically engineered to express mutant forms of the LRRK2 gene, including a form that lacks enzymatic function, to directly test the hypothesis. Two other investigators,
Grant abstracts and researcher bios for all projects are available on the Foundation’s Web site, www.michaeljfox.org.