Parkinson’s study receives funding from The Michael J. Fox Foundation

New research by a Nottingham academic linking the neurodegenerative disease Parkinson’s to changes in a protein in brain mitochondria is to receive support from a prestigious US funding agency.

Dr Lisa Chakrabarti, at The University of Nottingham, will receive $75,000 for a one-year research project from The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF), which is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s and funds promising research that could result in new treatments to slow, stop or reverse the progression of the disease.

Dr Chakrabarti said: “We are trying to look at mitochondrial biology from a totally different perspective, which could have important implications for Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. The funding from The Michael J. Fox Foundation will help us to confirm whether some of the protein changes we see in Parkinson’s are related to disease course.”

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological condition that causes degeneration of nerve cells in the brain. It is the loss of a vital chemical messenger found within these cells, called dopamine, which causes the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s including tremor, rigidity, slowness of movement and problems with balance. Other symptoms can include cognitive impairment and mood disorders, a loss of sense of smell, constipation and speech problems.

The disease affects one person in every 500 — around 127,000 people in the UK — most of whom are age 50 or over. There is currently no cure and scientists have yet to pinpoint exactly what causes the condition.

Dr Chakrabarti’s work centres on mitochondria — the energy generating powerhouses found within cells in the human body — and how the mitochondria in the brain’s nerve cells (neurons) are altered in the neurodegeneration of Parkinson’s patients.

Recently her group has found a protein located in mitochondria that could affect the way these cellular structures handle oxygen. Oxygen is one requirement for mitochondrial activity as they use it to make chemical energy called ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), which powers all the body’s functions.

“To cure Parkinson’s we need to learn more about the pathology of the disease. Dr Charkrabarti’s work will educate the field on disease-specific cellular changes, which could inform future therapeutic development,” said Dr Catherine Kopil, associate director of research programs at MJFF.

The funding from MJFF will allow Dr Chakrabarti to run a larger study to further investigate this potential link by comparing the post mortem brains of both Parkinson’s patients and people without the condition.

Sourcing brains from both the Nottingham Biobank and from other national brain banks, Dr Chakrabarti will examine tissue from patients with differing age at mortality and disease duration to get a clearer understanding of the physiological changes that take place within the brain as the disease progresses.

The Michael J Fox Foundation was established in 2000 by the film and TV actor Michael J. Fox, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991 at age 30.

To date, the Foundation has invested more than $350 million into Parkinson’s research. In addition to funding research projects, MJFF has dedicated significant resources to creating, characterizing and distributing research tools such as pre-clinical models and reagents to be shared with the research community. The Foundation also fosters clinical research participation through the study matching tool Fox Trial Finder and outreach efforts and sponsors the landmark Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative to identify and validate Parkinson’s biomarkers. More details are available at

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