Page 36-37 - NeuRA 2013 in Review

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A major research initiative is underway
at NeuRA, and the goal of this initiative is
as ambitious as it is clear: to make
Parkinson’s disease history.
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neuro-
degenerative disorder worldwide, and in Australia alone,
30 new cases are diagnosed each day.
Despite Nobel Prize-winning research surrounding
the discovery of levodopa, a drug now used to manage the
early motor symptoms of the disease, causes and cures have
remained elusive in the 200 years since James Parkinson’s
first description of the disease in 1817.
Our research is looking into a protein called leucine-
rich repeat kinase 2, or LRRK2. Mutations in the gene that
codes for the LRRK2 protein are a leading cause of genetic
Parkinson’s disease. LRRK2 is a key research priority area
internationally and, with the help of the Michael J Fox
Foundation, NeuRA has joined a consortium of research
institutions that work together across nine countries.
The latest findings from the team at NeuRA suggest
that LRRK2 may be part of the signalling pathway that
regulates the body’s inflammatory immune response.
That is, the body’s response to viral or bacterial infection.
Increased inflammation in Parkinson’s disease is not
a new concept. In fact, many markers of inflammation are
increased in patients. However, how inflammation, which
everyone normally experiences during their lifetime, goes
on to cause Parkinson’s disease in only some people remains
largely unknown.
Our scientists are determining whether LRRK2 affects
the body’s first line of defence – the innate immune system
– and whether the function of LRRK2 is changed only in
people with Parkinson’s disease. If it is, this protein could
be a potential new target for treating the disease.
Your Brain | 35
Details of our architectural exterior
(top) Dr Nic Dzamko and Prof Glenda
Halliday research possible causes of Parkinson’s disease;
(bottom) Honours student Pascal Segalin.