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Funded Studies

Creating Dopaminergic Neurons in the Adult Brain

Study Rationale:
Loss of dopaminergic neurons is seen in Parkinson’s disease, and transplantation of these neurons can greatly ease symptoms. However, several major drawbacks are associated with transplantation-based therapy, begging for alternatives to treat Parkinson’s. Cutting-edge research shows that the fate of cells can be re-engineered in the adult brain, raising the hope of using a patient’s own cells for therapy rather than transplantation.          

We hypothesize that dopaminergic neurons can be created from other cell types in the adult brain, thereby compensating for the neurons lost in Parkinson’s disease.

Study Design:
A systematic screen will identify an optimal combination of factors able to induce the production of new dopaminergic neurons in the brain of pre-clinical models. We will identify the cell origin for these new dopaminergic neurons and examine the conversion process and the effect of aging on creation of dopaminergic neurons.

Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease:
The generation of new dopaminergic neurons in the adult brain may have direct impact on devising a novel therapeutic strategy for Parkinson’s disease.

Next Steps for Development:
The biological function of these newly created dopaminergic neurons will be examined in a pharmacologically induced model of Parkinson’s disease. The conversion process will also be further optimized for therapy.


  • Wenze Niu, PhD

    Dallas, TX United States

  • Chun-Li Zhang, PhD

    Dallas, TX United States

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