Parkinson’s Disease by Yong-Chao Ma, 2012

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

Rebekah C. Evans, Ph.D., Georgetown University
In Vivo and Ex Vivo Dissection of Midbrain Neuron Activity During Exercise
Exercise is important for the health of the body and the mind. Exercise promotes learning and reduces symptoms of brain-related diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. However, it…
William J. Giardino, Ph.D. Stanford University
Deciphering the Neuropeptide Circuitry of Emotional Arousal in Narcolepsy
This research project aims to investigate the neural mechanisms of a specific type of brain cell called neuropeptide neurons within a region of the brain’s amygdala network called the bed…
Howard Gritton, Ph.D., University of Illinois
Attention Mechanisms Contributing to Auditory Spatial Processing.
Our world is composed of a rich mixture of sounds. We often process sounds including speech in the presence of many other competing auditory stimuli (e.g., voices in a crowded…
Nora Kory, Ph.D., Harvard University
Elucidating the Fates and Functions of Lactate in the Brain
The human brain requires significant energy to function. Despite accounting for only 2% of our body weight, the brain consumes a substantial 20% of the body’s energy, relying on a…