“A SPARK award will enable me to explore a new and potentially risky, research direction. This project may hold significant long-term potential for understanding Parkinson’s disease and the roles of immune cells in neurological diseases.”
Can immune system clues lead to Parkinson’s disease therapies?
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second-most prevalent neurodegenerative disorder affecting physical movement. Patients with PD suffer from an accumulation of a protein called alpha-synuclein (α-syn) in neurons, resulting in the loss of important dopamine-producing neurons in the brain. This loss leads to neurological symptoms, such as problems with movement. Recent findings regarding involvement of the immune system and neuroinflammation in PD has opened up novel avenues for better understanding the complexity of the disease and its treatment.
My goal is to gain deeper insight into the immune system’s role in PD by comparing immune cell activity in PD patients with activity in healthy controls. While previous studies have indicated some variations in the distribution of immune cells, consensus has been lacking due to differences in study participant numbers, criteria for donor inclusion or exclusion, and various other factors. To address these uncertainties, I aim to analyze a substantial number of participants to ensure sufficient data for meaningful results while also exploring potential differences between males and females.