NEW YORK, Oct. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- The Michael J. Fox Foundation for
Parkinson's Research today announced that it has committed $2 million to a
research initiative supporting study of the nerve cell networks that are
affected in Parkinson's disease.
Parkinson's disease involves the severe loss of the brain cells that
produce the chemical dopamine. Among its other functions, dopamine helps
regulate motor control throughout the body. While considerable research is
focused on the characteristics of the dopamine producing cells themselves,
less attention has been paid to the neural circuitry -- interconnected network
of brain cells -- of which these neurons are part. Growing evidence suggests
that greater insight into the entire dopaminergic system, including its
development, will increase understanding of Parkinson's disease and heighten
the likelihood of successfully developing new therapies, particularly those
involving stem cells.
"Right now we do not know enough about how dopamine neurons survive and
connect within developing and adult brains to determine how to effectively
protect, repair or replace them," explained J. William Langston, M.D., chief
scientific advisor to MJFF and CEO of The Parkinson's Institute. "Designing
studies that will capture important information about the functioning of the
local environment in the midbrain and the dopaminergic system we are trying to
repair is crucial to refining new treatments."
This new initiative has two areas of focus. The first is to better
understand the developmental biology of the normal brain's dopamine-regulating
circuitry. The second is the creation of alternative cell sources -- such as
stem cell derived lines of dopaminergic neurons and/or support cells -- to use
as laboratory models and ultimately as replacements for the cells lost to
Parkinson's. Optimally, researchers need to understand how dopamine neurons
are intrinsically programmed to survive and make appropriate connections
within the adult brain. This is critical as there is increasing evidence that
dopamine neurons and/or host tissues may require manipulation to promote the
survival and function of transplanted neurons.
"Dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra region within the midbrain
are the most severely affected neuronal populations in Parkinson's disease,"
said Deborah W. Brooks, MJFF executive director. "Understanding the
functioning of this system within the brain is essential to rapid development
Applicants are asked to submit a letter of intent no later than
December 3, 2003. Final applications are due by January 19, 2004 at
5:00 pm EST.
The program titled, Specification, Patterning, and Maintenance of Midbrain
Dopaminergic Systems In the Normal and Parkinsonian Brain is one element of
the Foundation's aggressive research agenda aimed at finding a cure for
Parkinson's disease. To date, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's
Research has funded nearly $30 million in research, either directly or through
partnerships. MJFF anticipates funding approximately $20 million more by
early 2004. For more information on The Michael J. Fox Foundation for
Parkinson's Research, visit www.michaeljfox.org.
SOURCE The Michael J. Fox Foundation