Parkinson’s Disease

Dopaminergic neurons located at the ventral midbrain control movement, mood and motivation. Dysfunction of dopaminergic neurons is implicated in Parkinson’s disease, drug addiction, depression and schizophrenia. Generating dopaminergic neurons from stem cells offers a remarkable opportunity to replace sick or dead neurons in patients, to study disease onset and progression, and to perform drug screening.  However, realizing this opportunity requires understanding the mechanisms that regulate dopaminergic neuron fate specification.  Dr. Ma will use his 2012 Seed Grant to use Neurogenin 2, a transcription factor protein that controls gene expression, as an entry point to study how the environment surrounding neural stem cells can affect their fate specification by modifying the activities of transcription factors. It is his hope that the proposed research will not only provide novel insights into how to differentiate dopaminergic neurons from neural stem cells, but also lead to new opportunities for treating Parkinson’s disease and other brain disorders.

Other Grants

Lindsay M. De Biase, Ph.D., University of California Los Angeles
The Role of Microglial Lysosomes in Selective Neuronal Vulnerability
Synapses, the sites of signaling between neurons in the brain, play essential roles in learning, memory, and the health of neurons themselves. An enduring mystery is why some neurons are…
How the Nervous System Constructs Internal Models of the External World
As animals navigate their environments, they construct internal models of the external sensory world and use these models to guide their behavior. This ability to incorporate ongoing sensory stimuli into…
Xiaojing Gao, Ph.D., Stanford University
When Neural Circuits Meet Molecular Circuits: Quantitative Genetic Manipulation with Single-cell Consistency
Cells are the building blocks of our bodies. We get sick when the cells “misbehave”. The way modern gene therapies work is to introduce genes, fragments of DNA molecules that…
Rafiq Huda, Ph.D., Rutgers University
Conducting the Orchestra of Movement—Functional Role of Striatal Astrocytes in Health and Disease
Movement requires coordinated activity across a large brain-wide network. The striatum is a particularly important part of this circuit; it integrates motor-related information from many distinct brain regions to regulate…