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Rockefeller University

The Stern Center at The Rockefeller University

Under the direction of Nobel Laureate Dr. Alexander Evans, the Stern Center at The Rockefeller University has concentrated their research on discovering why, of the two major populations of dopamine neurons in the brain, one is more susceptible to cell death in PD than the other.

Dr. Evans’s scientist have created a very sensitive method for separating these two types of neurons that has allowed the identification of many differences in their gene function. This is expected to provide new drug targets for the treatment of PD. Drugs that address these targets would have the potential to arrest disease progression.

They have discovered a major new signaling pathway in the brain that is based on ribonucleic acid (RNA). These regulatory RNAs (also called micro RNA) appear to control the functions of specific genes that are required for neuronal survival. An understanding of these RNAs may give us the power to prevent death of neurons in diseases such as PD.

A further major discovery has been a mechanism in neurons that regulates the expression of serotonin receptors. These play a major role in mood and depression and are indirect targets of most anti-depressant medications. The regulatory mechanism was revealed by the discovery of the function of a protein called “P11.” This information is expected to usher in a new class of extremely effective drugs to treat the depression associated with PD.