Recent evidence indicates a number of similarities between different age-related neurodegenerations. We believe that determining the underlying mechanisms of these commonalities in each disease can inform research on the other disorders. Our investigations within the Neurodegenerative Disease and Aging Research Focus Area consist of:
Drug Development & Delivery
As our focus area resides in NEOMED’s College of Pharmacy, it is not surprising that we are heavily involved in drug development and delivery. One of the major hurdles for treating neurodegenerative conditions is getting an effective dose of a drug to the brain. Dr. Oyewumi uses nanoparticles and other innovative strategies to transport therapeutic compounds to their desired target. Dr. Kasumov’s lab applies mass-spectrometry to identify drug metabolites and drug-induced changes in intermediary metabolism.
Inflammatory processes and mitochondrial dysfunction are hallmarks of neurodegenerative conditions. Neuroinflammation and energetic defects are involved in the onset and progression of neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and glaucoma. Our investigators focus on identifying how and when these systems are compromised with the goal of developing novel therapeutic strategies that target disease processes. The Inman and S. Crish Labs manipulate the nervous system’s natural repair and support systems to improve neuronal function in neurodegenerative disorders.
Neurotoxins in our environment can influence neurodegeneration, especially in Parkinson’s disease. Our researchers study gene-environment interactions in order to better inform people and policy on environmental risks as well as develop new medications that can treat ongoing neurodegeneration. Dr. Fitsanakis uses Caenorhabditis elegans — a tiny, transparent worm to investigate how substances we are exposed to interact with the nervous system.
Though neurodegenerative disease is characterized by loss of neurons in certain areas of the nervous system, some of the most exciting research over the past few years indicates that neurons undergo a long period of impaired function in signaling and metabolism before they are irretrievably lost. Drs. Sam Crish, Denise Inman, Vanessa Fitsanakis and Sheila Fleming seek to restore function to these “sick” neurons to slow, stop, or reverse neurodegeneration and clinical deficits from advancing.
Unique Predictors & Symptoms of Neurodegenerative Disease
A very fertile area of research investigates early, seemingly unrelated symptoms of AD and PD as biomarkers and targets for intervention. Our focus area has some of the emerging leaders in this topic. Dr. Christine Crish’s lab investigates early bone loss in Alzheimer’s disease and Dr. Sheila Fleming’s lab investigates non-motor deficits in Parkinson’s disease. These symptoms can occur years before the onset of each disease’s hallmark symptoms, cognitive dysfunction (Alzheimer’s disease) and motor deficits (Parkinson’s disease).