The research you are funding, in layman’s terms

Last month Shake It Up shared an interview with Dr Nick Dzemko at  NeuRA who gave a layman’s explanation of the Parkinson’s research they are undertaking in the area of LRRK2.

Today we share insights from Associate Professor David Finkelstein. Associate Professor Finkelstein is the Head of the Parkinson’s Disease Laboratory at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Melbourne. The research his team is conducting is at the cutting edge of Parkinson’s disease research. By supporting Shake It Up you are helping to fund this exciting project!

Hear from Assoc. Professor Finkelstein as he explains what his team is up to:

What area of Parkinson’s are you researching?

We currently have two projects funded by Shake It Up Australia and the Michael J. Fox Research Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. These projects investigate why toxic levels of iron accumulate in the area of the brain affected by Parkinson’s disease, and what we can do to stop or reverse this occurring.Dfinklestein

Why is this research important?

A recent clinical trial showed that lower iron in the brain benefited patients with Parkinson’s disease. We think that new, more targeted drugs would be even more effective in treating patients with this disease. And, if we can discover what causes iron to accumulate in the first place, we might be able to prevent people for experiencing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in the first place.

What are you trying to discover?

One key focus of our research attempts to discover why Parkinson’s disease-affected brains accumulate iron in the region of the brain affected by the disease. Iron is important for a healthy brain and body, but too much iron causes brain cells to die. Ordinarily, the brain controls the iron content in the brain precisely, so it is a mystery why iron accumulates in Parkinson’s disease. If we can discover what goes wrong the Parkinson’s disease brain that leads to iron elevation, we might be able to design new drugs to prevent this occurring.

We are also trying to discover new, more efficient drugs that lower iron in the region of the brain affected by Parkinson’s disease, and do not have side effects that lower iron in areas of the body that are unaffected by the disease.

Where is the research up to?

Our recent research has identified that iron accumulation in the brain has got nothing to do with how much iron is consumed in diet, rather, the Parkinson’s disease-affected brain losses its ability to maintain appropriate iron levels. We are now identifying the precise steps involved that result in inappropriate iron regulation.

We have also tested a range of new drugs for their ability to lower iron in the brain. We have found that one of these drugs in particular is very effective in treating mice that are affected by Parkinson’s disease. We are now doing thorough testing of the safety of this drug, to make sure it won’t be toxic if we administer the drug to Parkinson’s disease patients.