$1.2 million to find new Parkinson’s disease treatment

13 Jan 2017

Researchers from The University of Queensland will investigate ways to halt or even reverse Parkinson’s disease thanks to a A$1.2 million grant from The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and its major Australian funding partner, Shake It Up Australia Foundation.

UQ Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) researcher Dr Avril Robertson said the funding would allow researchers to better understand immune cells in the human brain called microglia, which protect nerve cells from infections and injury. 

“In Parkinson’s disease, microglia are overactive, which leads to persistent brain inflammation that damages nerve cells and may drive this devastating disease,” Dr Robertson said.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological condition that affects a person’s ability to control their movement and coordination. 

UQ School of Biomedical Sciences researcher Dr Richard Gordon said the multidisciplinary UQ team was working to better understand and fight the inflammation cascade in the brain.

“Our team has identified ways to potentially block the damaging effects of inflammation,” Dr Gordon said.

“By blocking inflammation, we may be able to restore the health of brain immune cells so they can get back to their normal ‘housekeeping’ roles.”

Dr Robertson said the funding would help the team translate its research towards an effective therapy.

“This generous funding will allow us to further develop our understanding of, and potential treatments for Parkinson’s disease,” Dr Robertson said.

“While this research still has a long way to go, we hope it could be the beginning of the end for Parkinson’s disease.”

More than 10 million people worldwide, including 70,000 Australians, live with Parkinson's disease which has many possible causes including age, genetics, diet and lifestyle.

The research team includes Professor Matt Cooper (project leader), Associate Professor Kate Schroder and Dr Avril Robertson from UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience, and Associate Professor Trent Woodruff and Dr Richard Gordon from UQ’s School of Biomedical Sciences.

UQ researchers were also recently awarded $139,000 through The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s Target Advancement funding program, with funding support from Shake It Up Australia Foundation to explore how to repurpose an existing blood pressure drug to treat Parkinson’s disease in preclinical models.

Media: IMB Communications, communications@imb.uq.edu.au, 07 3346 2155, 0439 651 107.

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