|Stephen Traynelis, PhD, professor of pharmacology at Emory University School of Medicine, has earned an award from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research for his laboratory's work on developing new therapeutic strategies for treating Parkinson's disease.
Traynelis' laboratory was one of nine research teams that will receive grants under the Foundation's Target Validation 2008 initiative, with his team getting $100,000 per year for two years.
Stephen Traynelis, PhD
Using cultured cells, Traynelis and his co-workers have identified compounds that may be able to reduce symptoms and slow disease progression. The purpose of the award is to support further studies of the compounds' activities in neurons and animal models of Parkinson's disease. Traynelis' team has been searching for compounds that selectively inhibit one type of glutamate receptor, the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor. This receptor binds and responds to a chemical message (glutamate) released from neurons in the brain.
The brain makes several different types of NMDA receptors, and Traynelis has focused on the NR2D subunit, one particular subtype of NMDA receptor that is abundant in regions of the basal ganglia affected by Parkinson's disease.
"We hypothesize that blocking this particular type of NMDA receptor will help rectify the imbalances in neuronal circuits that underlie many symptoms of Parkinson's disease," Traynelis says. "This should reduce the severity of symptoms, and possibly slow disease progression by preventing the death of cells that make and use dopamine."