October Research Forum – Genetics and Parkinson’s
Monday, 18th October 2021

We are pleased to welcome Dr. Nicolas Dzamko from the University of Sydney, to present on his research related to LRRK2 and GBA, and how these enzymes may be involved in immune cell function and what this means for Parkinson’s disease.

If you missed the forum you can watch a recording here.

Many cases of Parkinson’s disease have underlying genetic causes. Two of the most prevalent Parkinson’s disease risk genes are leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) and glucocerebrosidase (GBA). Interestingly, the protein products of these genes are highly expressed in peripheral blood monocytes, one of the first responder immune cells to pathogens such as bacteria or virus. This has two exciting consequences. Firstly, that the enzymes can be easily detected in blood cells may pave the way for simple blood tests to assess Parkinson’s disease risk, or with new therapies against these targets in early clinical trials, to assess how a trial participant may respond to therapy. Secondly, work from our group and others, indicates that both enzymes may be important for responding to pathogens and may provide a link between the immune system and Parkinson’s disease risk. This Shake It Up funded internationally collaborative project aims to directly assess both the blood test potential and immune system links, by taking blood cells from Parkinson’s disease patients with and without risk mutations in LRRK2 or GBA, and challenging these cells to pathogens in the presence or absence of prototype drugs targeting LRRK2 and GBA.


Nicolas Dzamko studied in Melbourne and Scotland, working on the LRRK2 protein as a postdoc in Dundee. During this time he generated the first selective antibodies for measuring LRRK2 and the first selective prototype LRRK2 kinase inhibitor drug. As an NHMRC CJ Martin Fellowship holder Nicolas moved to the University of NSW in 2012 and with continued funding from the Shake It Up Foundation has developed LRRK2 biomarker tests for Parkinson’s disease paving the way for their use in early phase clinical trials. In 2017 Nicolas moved to the University of Sydney where he continues to lead a team of dedicated Parkinson’s disease researchers who focus on developing biomarker tests to facilitate clinical trials, and employing human adult stem cell models to understand how Parkinson’s disease risk mutations actually cause disease, and to use these models to screen for new therapeutic approaches.