Dundee University to research causes of Parkinsons

A LEADING research scientist at Dundee University has been awarded almost £2 million in funding to investigate the causes of Parkinson’s disease.

Dr Miratul Muqit, a scientist at the university’s Medical Research Council Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit, has been awarded a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship in Clinical Science to undertake research over the next five years.

It is hoped the study will lead to new ideas on how to diagnose and treat Parkinson’s, an increasingly common disorder that leads to progressive brain degeneration.

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Dr Muqit said: “Coming up with treatments for Parkinson’s has been a major challenge largely due to a lack of understanding on the causes of the disease. Recent genetic breakthroughs have now given us a roadmap on where to start to unravel the disease.”

He will investigate the role of two genes, PINK1 and Parkin, which are mutated in patients with inherited forms of Parkinson’s. These genes act together to remove damaged proteins from cells and this forms an important defence mechanism for the brain.

Dr Muqit said: “This funding boost from the Wellcome Trust is really a reflection of the many talented people in my lab as well as the outstanding research environment and resources of the MRC Unit. I am extremely grateful to the Wellcome Trust for their on-going funding of my work. We have entered a really exciting phase of our research and over the next few years we hope to have a much better understanding of how PINK1 and Parkin mutations lead to Parkinson’s and to discover drug targets that could one day become effective treatments for the condition.”

Professor Dario Alessi, director of the MRC Unit, said: “I am delighted that Miratul has been able to secure this highly sought after fellowship to pursue his valuable research into better understanding the molecular causes of Parkinson’s. Miratul is on the cusp of making some tremendous breakthroughs in the area of PINK1 and Parkin biology that could lead to new ideas about how to better treat and diagnose Parkinson’s in the future.”

The MRC-PPU was established in 1990 by the MRC to investigate the role that protein phosphorylation play in regulating human diseases. The unit has since trained over 400 students and its researchers have published over 500 research papers on human diseases such as cancer, immune disorders and neurodegeneration.