Paul Greengard, Ph.D.
2000 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
Vincent Astor Professor, Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, Director, Stern Center for Parkinson’s Research, The Rockefeller University; Vice-Chair, The Michael Stern Parkinson’s Research Foundation
Under the direction of Nobel Laureate Dr. Paul Greengard, scientists at The Stern Center in the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience at The Rockefeller University – the largest American laboratory conducting PD research –are focusing on discovering new drugs and molecular targets within dopamine-producing brain cells that could prevent destruction of these cells and halt the progression of PD. Their research has significant implications for the greatest number of PD sufferers because it addresses the 95% of cases of unknown origin, whereas the majority of research today addresses the 5% of cases that are genetically determined. New drugs would improve upon or replace the most frequently used current standard therapy, L-DOPA, with its serious side effects, and effectiveness that lasts only a few years.
It is well known that PD is caused by the death of dopamine-producing neurons in an area of the midbrain called the substantia nigra.However there are two nearly identical types of dopamine-producing brain cells here, and only one type dies in PD; the other type is spared.It is believed that comparing the elements of the proteins produced by genes in these two cell types – their translational profile – will explain why one turns off and dies while others are protected and live on. Separating the cells for analysis was not feasible until 2008 when the Rockefeller team developed a sophisticated tool: TRAP (Translating Ribosome Affinity Purification) which reveals the translational profiles of cells by isolating their genetic messages as they pass through ribosomes, the cells’ protein production factories. TRAP allows all the proteins in each of the brain’s cell types to be analyzed, enabling scientists to look specifically at the dopamine-producing cells that die in PD. “From this point on Parkinson’s disease research should proceed at a greatly accelerated pace, because instead of looking at one gene at a time we are now looking at a thousand” said Dr. Greengard.