Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Center funds three interdisciplinary scientific investigations
The pilot grants program gifted $150,000 to projects that advance research into Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders.
October 5, 2023
The VCU Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Center awarded $50,000 each to three VCU investigators researching neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease and other types of movement disorders.
“Funding from partners such as the Joan and Morgan Massey Foundation will help us increase the number and amount of grants we are able to offer,” said Brian Berman, M.D., a professor in the Department of Neurology and director of the PMDC. “It increases the potential of our funded research to have a transformative impact on the lives of those at risk or suffering from movement disorders.”
Founded in 2021, the PMDC Pilot Grants program provides initial funding to research projects that aim to improve clinical care for patients with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders.
The 2023 awardees include faculty conducting research across a broad range of basic and clinical science fields from the School of Medicine, School of Pharmacy and College of Humanities and Sciences.
“By combining expertise across different disciplines, the researchers who receive grants are able to answer more complex scientific questions and ultimately have a greater impact on patients affected by Parkinson’s or other types of movement disorders,” Berman said. “More research of this kind will ultimately lead to scientific advances that positively impact the quality of life for individuals living with these disorders.”
The PMDC Pilot Grants program is supported by funds provided to the center through the Commonwealth of Virginia and philanthropy.
PMDC Pilot Grant Awardees 2023-2024
Santiago Lima, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, VCU College of Humanities and Sciences
Jason Newton, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, VCU College of Humanities and Sciences
Examination of a GBA-RTK-α- synuclein axis in cellular models of Parkinson’s disease
Mutations in the lysosomal enzyme glucocerebrosidase (GBA) is found in 5-15% of patients with Parkinson’s disease. This investigation will study how the mutation alters cell signaling and contributes to the pathogenesis of the disease. The study could help enhance scientific knowledge of how GBA mutations can lead to neurodegeneration and the development of Parkinson’s disease and uncover potential therapeutic targets to treat or prevent the disease from developing. This pilot grant was funded through a grant from the Joan and Morgan Massey Foundation.
Laxmikant Deshpande, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Neurology, VCU School of Medicine
Joseph McClay, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science, VCU School of Pharmacy
Epigenetic mechanisms for chronic memory impairment following repeated exposure to organophosphate pesticide chlorpyrifos
Deshpande and McClay are building on a previous PMDC pilot grant funded study and are investigating the role of organophosphates, a chemical used in pesticides and other products, in neurodegenerative disorders and cognitive decline. They will be assessing the epigenetic and gene expression changes that occur in preclinical models with organophosphate-induced memory deficits. This could help provide critical insight on how pesticide exposure can lead to an increased risk for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, and the novel data on the importance of the epigenome in developing and treating pesticide-induced neurological dysfunction.
Natalie Dautovich, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, VCU College of Humanities and Sciences
Sarah Lageman, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Neurology, VCU School of Medicine
Group-based intervention for insomnia in Parkinson’s disease
This investigation will attempt to develop a better way to treat insomnia, a common and bothersome non-motor symptom in Parkinson’s disease. In their study, the investigators aim to assess the feasibility, acceptability and effectiveness of a cognitive behavioral intervention for insomnia in Parkinson’s disease. This grant will help adapt an established method to treat insomnia to the treatment of patients with Parkinson’s disease in a group setting potentially enabling the development of a novel and effective patient-centered treatment.