Parkinson’s cure may be found in Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The cure for Parkinson's disease may have been found right here in West Michigan by undergraduates at Grand Valley State University.

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a $500,000 grant to a team of researchers from Grand Valley State University, Van Andel Research Institute and Rush University to test a possible cure for Parkinson's. The grant comes after undergraduate students discovered a protein called PM-Nato3, capable of protecting neurons in the brain susceptible to the disease.

Merritt DeLano-Taylor, an associate professor of biomedical sciences at GVSU is one of the three principal investigators on the project.  Patrik Brundin of the Van Andel Research Institute is another.  Rush University, which is in Chicago, is represented by Jeffrey Kordower. 

Taylor describes Brundin and Kordower as "giants in the field of Parkinson's disease."

“We’ve invented and patented a specific type of modified gene, and it helps to induce the expression of protective factors or protectors that are known to help protect neurons in the conditions that create Parkinson’s disease,” said Delano-Taylor.

The patent-pending technology that will be used in the research was developed nearly two years ago by Grand Valley alumni Nicholas Huisingh, Jordan Straight, Daniel Doyle and Douglas Peterson while they were undergraduate students.

Their research will be built upon by other students and researchers at Van Andel, conducting experiments on mice while searching for the cure in Petri dishes at GVSU.

“Research is research, if we knew what the outcome would be then we wouldn’t need to do it,” said Brundin. “The paths from a basic science experiment in a laboratory to a therapy that’s available in the pharmacy is a very long and winding path.”

Brundin says if all goes according to plan, a pharmaceutical drug could hit the shelves in the next five to 15 years.

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