Richard Myers, PhD, professor of neurology, was recently awarded $100,000 from the Ellison Foundation for research to further study a Parkinson’s disease (PD) target.
The Myers research team will investigate the Cyclin G-associated kinase (GAK) gene and protein and why a deficiency of this gene increases the risk for developing Parkinson’s disease (PD), a chronic and progressively worsening movement disorder that results from the malfunction and death of neurons. Currently, there is no cure for PD and the cause is unknown.
Myers seeks to define what versions of GAK are in the human brain, how they function and how certain variations could protect from PD. GAK is critical for a process that is essential for normal function and brain activity.
“We are seeking to understand how and why this gene has such a large impact on PD and to identify the mechanism by which the deficiency leads to the death of nerve cells in the brain,” Myers, who is the director of the Genome Science Institute and the Aubrey Milunsky Chair in Human Genetics, said. “We have evidence that increasing the levels of this gene, or the protein it makes, may decrease or prevent the cell death seen in PD, and we will explore whether this may be a new avenue for treatment of PD.”
Myers’ interests focus on genetic research methods for the investigation of adult onset diseases, such as PD, Huntington’s disease, obesity and more. His lab has been studying the genetics of PD for more than twenty years and has participated in a wide range of investigations for this disease.