News Release: Research, School of Public Health

Oct. 10,  2008

Emory Awarded $6 Million to Study Environmental Causes of Parkinson's

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Emory University has received a $6.4 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to examine the impact of environmental factors on the cause, prevention and treatment of Parkinson's disease and other related disorders, the NIH announced today.

The five-year grant will fund research at Emory's newly created Parkinson’s Disease Collaborative Environmental Research Center led by Gary W. Miller, PhD.

Parkinson's disease has been linked to pesticide exposure, mitochondrial damage and altered storage of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Miller and his team will probe how environmental and genetic factors interact to alter these functions in dopamine neurons. Identifying these mechanisms could lead to new treatments for the disease. The Emory team will also attempt to develop new biomarkers in the blood that will help identify people that may be at risk for developing Parkinson’s.

"This grant unites toxicologists, neurologists, biochemists, pharmacologists, statisticians and system biologists to determine how environmental factors influence Parkinson’s disease," says Miller, associate professor of environmental and occupational health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, and study principal investigator. "Our goal is to devise new strategies to diagnose, prevent and treat the disease."

Other investigators involved with the project include: Mahlon DeLong, MD, Dean Jones, PhD, Zixu Mao, MD, PhD, Tianwei Yu, PhD, Younja Park, PhD, and Stewart Factor, DO, all of Emory University; and Eberhard Voit, PhD, and Kurt Pennell, PhD, of the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects nerve cells, or neurons, in several parts of the brain, including neurons that use the chemical messenger dopamine to control muscle movement. More than 1 million Americans suffer from Parkinson’s disease, with approximately 60,000 new cases reported each year.


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service. Its components include schools of medicine, nursing, and public health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; the Emory Winship Cancer Institute; and Emory Healthcare, the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center has a $2.3 billion budget, 17,000 employees, 2,300 full-time and 1,900 affiliated faculty, 4,300 students and trainees, and a $4.9 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta.

Learn more about Emory’s health sciences:
Twitter: @emoryhealthsci

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