Public Release:  Burnham researcher awarded $8 million grant

Will study environmental causes of Parkinson's disease

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute

Burnham Institute for Medical Research today announced that Stuart A. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D., professor and director of the Del E. Webb Neuroscience, Aging, and Stem Cell Research Center at Burnham has been awarded $8 million, over five years, to establish a Center for Neurodegeneration Science (CNS). The center will study potential environmental causes of Parkinson's disease. Funding for the center comes from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) of the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers at the CNS Institute will study how environmental toxins that produce free radicals (highly reactive molecules related to oxygen and nitrogen) can enhance or mimic genetic mutations that contribute to Parkinson's disease. Specifically, the investigators will examine chemical reactions that alter protein function. A number of these proteins have already been identified.

"We recently identified proteins that undergo chemical reactions in the brains of patients with Parkinson's disease," said Dr. Lipton. "These chemical reactions may contribute to the disease process and the chemically-modified proteins may serve as biomarkers for disease progression. Our goal is to screen chemical libraries to find compounds that prevent free-radical induced changes to these Parkinson's-related proteins."

The new NIH-designated CNS Institute, formed under the auspices of this grant, represents a collaborative effort between scientists at Burnham, the University of California, San Diego and The Scripps Research Institute.

Approximately a million people suffer from Parkinson's disease in the U.S. alone, and this and other neurodegenerative diseases worldwide affect many millions. They suffer from progressive impairments in motor control and in some cases cognition and memory. Although available therapies may provide limited symptomatic relief or delay in the disease, to date no sure means of curing, halting or slowing the progression of disease has been identified. Neurodegenerative diseases are primarily age-related, and thus represent a growing concern as life-spans increase in the U.S. and other industrialized countries.

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About Burnham Institute for Medical Research

Burnham Institute for Medical Research is dedicated to revealing the fundamental molecular causes of disease and devising the innovative therapies of tomorrow. Burnham is one of the fastest growing research institutes in the country with operations in California and Florida. The Institute ranks among the top four non-profit research institutes nationally for NIH grant funding and among the top 25 organizations worldwide for its research impact as measured by publications. Burnham utilizes a unique, collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to medical research, and has established major research programs in cancer, neurodegeneration, diabetes, infectious and inflammatory, and childhood diseases. The Institute is known for its world-class capabilities in stem cell research and drug discovery technologies. Burnham is a nonprofit, public benefit corporation. For more information, please visit www.burnham.org.

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