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Funded Studies

Melanoma-related Gene as a Therapeutic Target for Parkinson's Disease

Individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD) are more likely to develop melanoma. Conversely, melanoma patients are at higher risk of developing PD. This bidirectional link suggests a shared genetic basis for these two seemingly distinct conditions.

Project Description:
In collaboration with melanoma researchers, this study seeks to explore a role of a melanoma-related gene in the survival and degeneration of dopamine neurons and the neuroprotective potential of targeting that gene. We will first determine whether toxins cause more damage to pre-clinical models with the inactivated gene. Then we will test whether gene-stimulating drugs protect models against the toxin-induced damage and whether the protective effects disappear with gene inactivation.

Relevance to Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease:          
Positive results of the proposed experiments would advance our understanding of the gene’s regulation of dopamine-producing neuron survival and death. Evidence that gene-stimulating drugs are protective would foster further investigation and clinical development of existing gene-stimulating drugs or new investment in pursuit of novel treatments for PD.

Anticipated Outcome:
The insights gained from this project will shed light on a virtually unexplored biological basis of PD and melanoma. They may facilitate further collaborative investigations on a dual role of such gene in cancer and neurodegeneration.


  • Xiqun Chen, MD, PhD

    Boston, MA United States

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