Circular RNA (circRNA) is a recently discovered type of RNA, a molecule that plays an important role in protein production. CircRNAs are abundant in the brain and builds up when protein production is impaired. Some of the circRNAs have been linked to genes and proteins that play a role in Parkinson's disease (PD) and other neurodegenerative diseases. We will evaluate whether changes in circRNA levels are responsible for PD-related damage of nerve cells and where and when circRNAs accumulate in the brain in Parkinson's. This study can open a new path for the discovery of novel therapeutics.
In this study, we aim to determine whether circRNAs may be involved in the onset and/or progression of Parkinson's disease by developing sensitive and reproducible ways to test its level in brain tissue donated after death by people with Parkinson's and by healthy people.
We already know that circRNAs are used incorrectly in the brain regions affected by PD. By comparing brain tissue of people with Parkinson's with that of healthy people, we will determine the complete set of circRNAs produced in the brain in PD and characterize the rate of their accumulation in the course of disease. We expect this new information to help us and other researchers develop strategies for early diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. This information will also lead to discovery of new therapeutic targets.
Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson's Disease:
Although errors in RNA metabolism have been known to play a role in PD, circRNAs -- a very recent discovery -- have not been studied from this perspective yet. This project will clarify whether circRNA participates in the onset and progression of Parkinson's disease.
Next Steps for Development:
In the future, we hope to develop strategies for early diagnosis of Parkinson's. We will also set the stage for studying whether circRNAs are involved in PD and if so, how. If circRNAs are indeed involved, they could constitute excellent targets for future translational research.