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Elucidation of the Role of Parkin in the Ubiquitin-Proteasome Degradation Pathway in Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease is one of the most common movement disorders, severely affecting people by causing intense shaking and sometimes complete freezing of movement. This disease is caused by the death of specific cells within the patient's brain. Autosomal recessive juvenile Parkinson's, or AR-JP, is a particularly insidious form of this disease which can strike people as early as their teenage years. In 1998, a gene responsible for many cases of AR-JP was found. This gene makes a protein called Parkin. In people with AR-JP, the mutant Parkin protein is functionally impaired. In healthy people, Parkin protects cells from dieing by directing damaged proteins to the cell's garbage disposal unit, or what we call the ubiquitin proteasome pathway. We believe that Parkin has other partners in performing its duties in the cell. We plan to develop tools to help us look at Parkin within brains and cells. Using these tools, we will find the partners that help Parkin clean up damaged proteins from cells and figure out how all of these partners work together. By doing so, we will gain a better understanding of why cells die in Parkinson's disease and AR-JP and how we can prevent these cells from dieing.


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