UQ seeks Parkinson’s treatment in existing drug
Saturday, 1st April 2017

Shake It Up Australia together with The Michael J. Fox Foundation is excited to be funding a new research project at the University of Queensland.  Their research team will investigate the potential of repurposing an existing blood pressure drug to slow or halt the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

The project’s chief investigator, Dr Richard Gordon of UQ’s School of Biomedical Sciences, said the research would evaluate if forms of the drug could block brain inflammation associated with the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

“There is accumulating evidence that patients develop chronic immune activation and brain inflammation due to the buildup of insoluble protein clumps called ‘Lewy bodies’ in Parkinson’s,” Dr Gordon said.

“By halting the inflammation cycle, the drug could act as a potential therapeutic to halt or slow disease progression.”

There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, which affects 80,000 Australians and 5 million people worldwide.

Shake It Up Australia founder Clyde Campbell said the project could make a real difference in the lives of people living with Parkinson’s disease.

“Inflammation of the brain has been a key area of research, and we are excited to be involved in exploring the potential of this drug to provide tangible benefits in slowing or halting the disease progression.”

The drug has been prescribed for high blood pressure in a number of countries since the 1990s and has a good safety record for long-term use.

UQ’s Associate Professor Trent Woodruff said the project could enable a rapid translation of the drug to the clinic.

“It is already approved for use in humans, and so a lot of the preclinical barriers can be bypassed, allowing for a more rapid path to testing in patients.”

Project details

Researchers: Dr Richard Gordon

The research collaboration comprises researchers from across UQ, including Dr. Richard Gordon and Associate Professor Woodruff from the School of Biomedical Sciences, Dr John O’Sullivan from The School of Medicine and RBWH and Professor Matt Cooper and Dr Kate Schroder from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

Institution: University of Queensland (UQ) School of Biomedical Sciences

Grant Title: Pharmacological Targeting of Proinflammatory Kinase Signaling in Parkinson’s Disease

Summary: In Parkinson’s disease, the brain’s resident immune cells, called microglia, can become persistently activated due to the accumulation of alpha-synuclein-containing protein clumps called Lewy bodies. This constant immune activation can lead to a cycle of ongoing inflammation in the brain, which can contribute to the gradual death of brain cells and disease progression. Emerging evidence also suggests that ongoing inflammation can contribute to the accumulation and spread of the protein clumps in the brain. Therefore, halting this cycle of inflammation and cell death could prevent the worsening of the disease and potentially improve disease symptoms.

Duration: One year

Budget: AUD $132,000

Dr Richard Gordon

Senior Research Fellow – School of Biomedical Sciences / Faculty of Medicine

Dr. Richard Gordon’s primary research interest is in characterising the innate immune mechanisms that contribute to progressive neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s and related neurodegenerative disorders. He has extensive research expertise in studying neuroinflammatory responses in pre-clinical models of neurodegeneration. His doctoral and postdoctoral research has uncovered novel microglial signaling pathways that drive neuroinflammation and dopaminergic degeneration in experimental models of Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Gordon’s current research focuses on characterising the immune and inflammatory responses to pathological misfolded protein aggregates that accumulate during progressive neurodegeneration.