Weekly Feature

2017-10-12 / Education

University at Buffalo awarded grant for Parkinson’s research

A federal grant totaling $398,750 for clinical research at the University at Buffalo focused on Parkinson’s disease has been provided through the National Institutes of Health Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, according to Rep. Brian Higgins.

“Parkinson’s is a difficult, progressive condition with no cure,” Higgins said. “This federal investment in research conducted right here in Western New York hopes to provide new clues into the disease and how we can better treat it.”

Parkinson’s disease is a motor system disorder resulting from the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain.

“During the past few years, we have made a lot of progress,” said Jian Feng, a professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB. “We have found a way to make human neurons in a dish that are very similar to human dopamine neurons in patients’ brains. This is critical, since it is the only way we can study live neurons.”

The new award from the institute will support Dr. Feng’s continued research into how mutations in the parkin gene affect dopamine neurons in the brain, leading to Parkinson’s disease.

“Using stem cell technology, we are able to make these human neurons. This has allowed us to study [neurons] directly to find out why parkin mutations cause these neurons to become more fragile. If we can find a way to mimic the protective function of parkin, then we will be able to find a therapy for Parkinson’s,” Feng said.

Feng’s research has led the University at Buffalo to enter into discussions with several pharmaceutical companies and to file for patent protection.

According to the National Institutes of Health, about 50,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease annually and about 500,000 people have the disease.

Higgins is co-chairman and founding member of the bipartisan House of Representatives National Institutes of Health Caucus and lead sponsor of the Accelerating Biomedical Research Act, which proposes incremental increases in funding to the National Institutes of Health.

Return to top