HOME 2021-04-29T16:05:38+00:00

Over a million Americans have Parkinson’s disease (PD) or related disorders such as progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP).  These diseases are characterized by relentlessly worsening motor and cognitive function, caused by degeneration of nerve cells in the brain.  No currently available medication slows or arrests disease progression.  Even symptomatic treatments show declining usefulness in advanced PD and are often ineffective in PSP.  There is an urgent and unmet need for effective treatments for these diseases.

Our work is focused on understanding the mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration in PD and PSP, as an essential step towards developing effective treatments.   Our current projects focus on the roles of the proteins alpha-synuclein and tau in the populations of brain neurons that selectively degenerate in these diseases.  To understand how accumulation of alpha-synuclein and tau causes neurodegeneration, we use a variety of different experimental models and approaches, including engineered viral vectors that alter gene expression in the rodent brain, and transgenic zebrafish that can be analyzed by intravital microscopy, electrophysiology, genetics and biochemistry.  We are also exploring unbiased phenotype-based chemical modifier screens in zebrafish models for drug discovery.  The ultimate goal of this work is to develop treatments that prevent the progression of PD and PSP.


04/28/2021 Darius awarded a Dean’s Fellowship to work on drug discovery for tauopathy using zebrafish models.
03/17/2021  Vlad’s paper “Mechanism of pacemaker activity in zebrafish DC2/4 dopaminergic neurons” published in The Journal of Neuroscience.
02/27/2021  Meera accepted into the CNUP Summer Undergraduate Research Program.
12/17/2020  Nidhi accepted into the Pitt MPH program.
09/08/2020  Victor, Jianming and Alya’s paper “α-Synuclein amplifies cytoplasmic peroxide flux and oxidative stress provoked by mitochondrial inhibitors in CNS dopaminergic neurons in vivo” published in Redox Biology.
07/28/2020  Ed named recipient of a Clinical Scientist Investigator Award by the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
06/04/2020  Ed named recipient of the UPMC neurology residents’ Clinical Teaching Award at the resident graduation ceremony.
04/13/2020  Phil and Victor’s chapter “Parkinson’s Disease” published in the new Elsevier book Behavioral and Neural Genetics of Zebrafish.
04/13/2020  Cameron’s chapter “Parkinson-Plus Syndromes” published in the new Springer book Neurologic and Neurodegenerative Diseases of the Larynx.
03/17/2020  Wenting, Jenny, Qing and Vlad’s paper “Chemoptogenetic ablation of neuronal mitochondria in vivo with spatiotemporal precision and controllable severity” published in eLife with an accompanying eLife Digest.