November 30, 2009, Updated September 24, 2012

Israeli researcher Dr. Sarit Larisch received the prestigious Johnson & Johnson Focus Funding grant early this month for her breakthrough research exploring the cause of brain cell damage in Parkinson’s disease.

Larisch is Head of the Cell Death Research Laboratory and senior lecturer in the University of Haifa’s Department of Biology. Her study of Parkinson’s disease (PD), a progressive neurodegenerative disorder caused by the death of nerve cells in areas of the brain that control muscle movement, has revealed a direct link between Parkin, which is a protein that plays a major role in hereditary PD, and ARTS, a protein that promotes death of cells.

“In PD brain cells,” explains Larisch, “Parkin contains mutations that compromise its ability to regulate the levels of ARTS. This aberrant function of Parkin in PD brains presumably leads to increased levels of ARTS which in turn induce the uncontrolled death of brain cells.

“Further understanding of how defects in the interaction between ARTS and Parkin cause the loss of brain cells may lead to a better treatment of patients suffering from Parkinson’s Disease,” Larisch concludes.


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